MASSACHUSETTS HAS MADE great strides in reducing electric and gas usage through state policies and our nationally recognized energy efficiency programs. These programs have provided billions of dollars in rebates to thousands of residential and business customers for investments in boiler upgrades, motor replacements and lighting changes.
But there is more to be done, particularly when it comes to everyday products not covered by program rebates.
A bill pending on Beacon Hill filed by Rep. Frank Smizik would require about a dozen products ranging from computers and monitors to hot-food holding cabinets to meet minimum energy and water efficiency standards to be sold in Massachusetts.
The measure would boost the local economy and improve air quality by lowering emissions and pollutants. The bill would also reduce water use by establishing standards for products such as toilets and showerheads.
Consumers are already able to purchase products, notably those with the EPA ENERGY STAR or WaterSense labels that meet the standards of proposed law. The public understands that while there may be a small initial price difference for some products, it makes economic sense over the life of the product given the large energy savings. The legislation simply prohibits less efficient products from being sold in Massachusetts.
By 2025, savings from new standards envisioned in the bill could equal 3 percent of all the electricity used by Massachusetts residents and save consumers hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s a case of good policy and good politics.
The bill enjoys unusually broad support from environmental and consumer groups, utilities, business groups, such as Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) which represents commercial and industrial interests, and the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC), which represents low-income populations. All these groups understand that saving energy and water translate into lower customer bills.
Massachusetts residents spend a large portion of their incomes on energy and water bills due to high energy costs in the Northeast. That’s especially true for low-income families who struggle to pay their energy bills and too often face cut-offs of vital utility services due to non-payment. Residential electric rates in the Bay State are 70 percent higher than the national average, according to recent data from the US Energy Information Administration.
Commercial and industrial customers also feel the impact of higher rates. According to the federal agency, commercial electric rates in Massachusetts are 60 percent higher than the national average and industrial customers’ electric rates are an incredible 120 percent more than the national average.
For these customers, money saved stays in the local economy, helping to create jobs. And efficiency reduces the need to build new electric or water infrastructure, saving even more money.
There is no known opposition to the measure. It would thus be unfortunate for it to be lost in the crunch of last-minute State House deadlines. The bill has already been reviewed and approved by the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy and is now being reviewed by the House Ways and Means Committee.
The Smizik bill is a winner for Massachusetts residents, businesses and environment. We urge the House Ways and Means Committee to approve this measure and keep Massachusetts a leader in energy and water efficiency.
Robert Rio is the Senior Vice President and Counsel at the Associated Industries of Massachusetts and Charlie Harak is Senior Energy Attorney at the National Consumer Law Center.