Massachusetts State Representative - 34th Middlesex District

Committee approves Eldridge's energy efficiency bill

Malborough Enterprise

Taxpayers in Massachusetts currently fund statewide energy efficiency programs, but policymakers lack the tools to track who is being served by the programs and how they have impacted local communities. A new piece of legislation, approved by the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy on Jan. 24, would change that, according to state Sen. Jamie Eldridge's office.

The bill, "An Act Further Promoting Energy Efficiency and Green Jobs," mandates public accountability in Massachusetts' energy efficiency programs and would establish a new Oil Heat Energy Efficiency Fund.

"We need to make sure that all communities are able to access the benefits of our energy efficiency programs and the jobs that come with them," said Eldridge, D-Acton, who filed the bill. "Massachusetts has done a great job promoting energy efficiency and creating jobs in the green economy over the past few years. Our next challenge is to ensure equitable access for all to these important programs."

In 2008, the Green Communities Act and Global Warming Solutions Act established a clean energy mandate and far-reaching global warming pollution reduction requirements in Massachusetts. Current efficiency programs, intended as key means for achieving these targets, do not effectively address barriers to participation faced by hard-to-reach populations or provide sufficient safeguards for workers, Eldridge's office said. New data collection procedures could ensure fairer access to efficiency measures and jobs created by these programs.

The pending legislation merges a proposed act on weatherization and green jobs, sponsored by state Rep. Carl Sciortino and Eldridge, with a second creating cost-savings and energy efficiency for oil heat customers, sponsored by state Rep. Frank Smizik, D-Brookline. The combined bill will now be sent to the House Ways and Means Committee.

Under the omnibus legislation, utility companies that administer energy efficiency programs will submit annual reports specifying for each zip code the number of participants served, efficiency measures provided, dollars spent, energy savings per measure and number of rental units served, Eldridge's office said.

"This bill, which ensures funding for weatherization projects, will not only help the environment, but will also create exciting new job opportunities for the struggling communities that need them most," said Sciortino, D-Medford.