Massachusetts Thermal Legislation Update

The Massachusetts Renewable Thermal Coalition continues to broaden its support for legislation that would expand the market for thermal energy in the Commonwealth. State Sen. Barry Finegold introduced coalition-crafted legislation in January that would add thermal renewable energy (including geothermal heat pumps) to the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard. The coalition is comprised of geothermal associations, energy companies, fuel suppliers and forest products companies. The Geo-thermal Exchange Organization (GEO) is a member, and stands in full support of their goal.

The coalition is nearing its target for funding, with efforts now focused on signing up the solar thermal and bio-oil technology interests. The next few weeks will be important, because more money will be needed to sustain coalition work as action on the legislation revs up.

The coalition Executive Committee (Charlie Niebling, David Cox, Matt Wolfe, Chris Williams, Jeff Hutchins, David O’Connor) continues to seek consensus on key questions, including the status of thermal RPS efforts elsewhere in the Northeast and around the country. Additional questions include meeting sustainability challenges of the biomass industry without creating unreasonable/unattainable criteria. A new website will soon provide information and updates on the coalition and its legislative objective.

Coalition lobbyist David O’Connor is seeking support by the national Solar Heating and Cooling Alliance and three environmental organizations, including the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), Environment Northeast, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Finegold’s bill (SB 1593) has been officially referred by the Clerk to the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. Coalition representatives sought support from Massachusetts Department of Environmental Resources Commissioner Mark Sylvia and his staff on March 26.