Environment

Here’s what to know about the state’s Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2050

Electric vehicles, heat pumps, and clean fuels factor into the state's plan to slash its greenhouse gas emissions.

Philip Cheung
A Chevrolet Bolt EV gets charged at a charging station in Baker, Calif., April 18, 2019. The Biden administration's 2022 Inflation Reduction Act includes an extension of a tax credit for electric vehicles worth up to $7,500 per qualifying car or truck.

With 27 years left on the clock, Massachusetts is laying out its plan to overhaul everything from cars to home heating, all in hopes of reaching net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. 

Released last week, the “Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2050” provides details on the steps the state will take toward its lofty goal.  

Climate change

Acknowledging the “unique and potentially irreversible threat” of climate change, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Bethany Card wrote in her introduction that the report “underscores the Commonwealth’s collective action plan for a future in which the energy used to heat our homes and businesses, power our vehicles, and generate electricity is cost-effective, equitable, and relies mainly on clean and renewable resources.”

Advertisement:

To reach net zero by 2050, the state plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 85% from 1990 levels and rely on carbon sequestration to absorb and store remaining emissions. 

Here are a few highlights from the plan:

Going electric

Over the coming years, Massachusetts plans to electrify 97% of light-duty vehicles on the road, or about five million cars. Under the plan, 93% of medium- and heavy-duty vehicles — more than 350,000 in all — would also be electrified or non-emitting.

In 2021, there were only 26,101 fully electric vehicles registered in Massachusetts, according to the state’s Clean Energy and Climate Dashboard

The plan includes previous vehicle emission standards, which ensure that all new cars sold in the state by 2035 — and the majority of new medium- and heavy-duty vehicles as well — will be electric.

To help with the transition, Massachusetts will shift away from offering incentives to those buying electric vehicles and instead encourage car owners to retire their gas-powered vehicles, according to the report. The state is also working to improve mass transit, invest in housing near public transportation, and develop a plan for public EV charging infrastructure. 

The report acknowledged that some sectors of the economy — including airplanes, ships, and long-haul trucks — will be difficult to electrify, and clean alternative fuels could play a role in reducing emissions there.

Keeping cool

The state’s vision for 2050 will also change the way Bay Staters heat and cool their buildings. 

Advertisement:

“The majority of residential and commercial buildings will have tight building envelopes, be weatherized to optimize energy efficiency, and be heated and cooled by efficient electric heat pumps or other zero-emitting technologies,” the report reads.  

The plan calls for a 95% reduction in emissions from residential heating and cooling, as well as a 92% reduction for commercial and industrial buildings. 

If all goes according to plan, 80% of homes in Massachusetts — more than 2.8 million — will be heated and cooled using electric heat pumps by 2050. By comparison, a total of 33,210 heat pumps were installed using incentives in 2020 and 2021, according to the state’s dashboard. 

The plan also touches on developing a Building Decarbonization Clearinghouse and “green bank” to provide financial and technical assistance to those making the switch. 

What about all that electricity? 

Powering all those cars and homes will require Massachusetts to “increase the amount of clean energy on its electric grid through investments in offshore wind, hydroelectricity, transmission systems, solar PV, distribution systems, and energy storage,” according to the report. 

By 2050, the state plans to increase its electric load 2.5-fold over 2020, with 97% of electricity consumption coming from clean and renewable sources. 

Advertisement:

The roadmap to 2050 comes just days before Gov.-elect Maura Healey takes office, bringing with her a newly-appointed “climate chief,” Environmental Protection Agency veteran Melissa Hoffer. 

“The creation of this position sends a clear message that Massachusetts is a global leader in the fight against climate change and that it will be central to all of the work we do across the administration,” Healey previously said.

Conversation

This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on Boston.com