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Commission on Clean Heat eyes road map to cut building emissions

environmental activists at clean heat rally (copy)

Tina Cornell from the Mothers Out Front organization leads a group of environmental activists from the Berkshires in a statewide rally to put pressure on energy companies across Massachusetts to shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources in November. 

The new advisory commission created to help the state meet its carbon reduction requirements by shifting to cleaner buildings and addressing heating fuels that contribute to emissions was sworn in Wednesday and will begin gathering public input on the transition in March.

Gov. Charlie Baker created the Commission on Clean Heat, which his office says is a first-in-the-nation effort, through an executive order last year and gave the panel a Nov. 30 deadline to recommend policies that “seek to sustainably reduce the use of heating fuels and minimize emissions from the building sector while ensuring costs and opportunities arising from such reductions are distributed equitably.”

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides tapped Undersecretary of Energy and Climate Solutions Judy Chang to serve as her designee and chair of the commission. The commission’s roster also includes William Akley, the president of Eversource’s gas business; Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Massachusetts President Emerson Clauss III; Passive House New England founder Mike Duclos; Dharik Mallapragada, a research scientist working on MIT’s Energy Initiative; Robert Rio, senior vice president of government affairs for Associated Industries of Massachusetts; NAIOP Massachusetts CEO Tamara Small; and Environmental Defense Fund Director of Energy Markets and Regulation Jolette Westbrook.

“Climate leadership over the next decade will require a fundamental transition in how we heat and cool our homes and buildings,” Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Patrick Woodcock said.

“While we move forward with accelerating the aggressive deployment of energy efficiency and heat pumps this first-in-the-nation commission on clean heat will identify the next generation of cost-effective and equitable policies that yield deep building sector decarbonization across the Commonwealth.”

Baker’s office announced at 6 p.m. Wednesday that the commission had already been sworn in and held its first meeting, though the administration did not provide details of any business the group conducted. The administration’s press release said the commission would plan public hearing sessions for March and that details would become available on the commission’s website.

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