Massachusetts Will Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions 25% Below 1990 Levels By 2020

Boston, MA. Photo: Wikipedia, CC
That's the Plan, Anyway...
Ian Bowles, the secretary of the Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), has announced an ambitious (compared to some) greenhouse gas emission limit for his state. The goal is a 25% reduction compared to 1990 levels, and that has to be achieved by 2020. "Massachusetts has already taken great strides in energy innovation, sparking a clean energy revolution in the Commonwealth and getting us two-thirds of the way toward 25 percent lower emissions by 2020," said Secretary Bowles. "I am confident we will meet the 25 percent limit I set today with a portfolio of policies that build on reforms made to date, launch practical new initiatives on a pilot basis, and generate cost savings and jobs."
Seal of Massachusetts. Image: Public domain.
How Will Massachusetts Get There?
The new energy plan will divide the cuts this way:


Buildings consume over 50 percent of the energy used in Massachusetts and are therefore responsible for the greatest GHG emissions of any sector. Energy use in buildings comes from these two primary areas: 1) fuels for heating -- primarily natural gas and heating oil, and 2) electricity for air conditioning, lighting, ventilation, appliances and equipment. The Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020 takes into account Massachusetts nation-leading energy efficiency efforts mandated by the Green Communities Act (GCA) of 2008, which will produce substantial GHG reductions for 2020, and proposes additional measures that will contribute toward meeting the 2020 limit. This category is expected to yield GHG reductions of 9.8 percent.


The vast majority of existing power plants burn fossil fuels to generate electricity, producing millions of tons of pollution. Nonfossil fuel electricity generation technologies include nuclear, hydro, wind, solar, and eligible biomass and anaerobic digestion, which vary in their emissions profiles. The character of the electric power sector as a whole is determined by three key factors: the demand for electricity overall, existing generation capacity by technology type, and how much of each type of existing capacity is utilized to meet demand. The Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020 relies on progress in each of these areas made since 2007, along with proposed new measures to move toward a cleaner electricity supply.


Transportation is second only to buildings in responsibility for GHG emissions in Massachusetts. The Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020 takes into account state and federal measures to improve vehicle efficiency, reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT), and increase use of lower-carbon fuels; and proposes additional measures that will contribute toward meeting the 2020 limit.


Greenhouse gas emissions not related to energy use represent a small but important part of statewide GHG emissions. Although these sources currently represent only 7 percent of total emissions, many of the gases emitted by these processes have high global warming potential (GWP) -- thousands of times greater than CO2. The Massachusetts Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020 addresses a number of non-energy sources of GHG emissions.

80% Cuts by 2050?
The next step for Massachusetts will probably be an 80% cut target for 2050. A lot of things could happen before then, but the current plan certainly points in that direction and even mentions the 80% goal explicitly (but will lawmakers feel bound by that in 40 years?). In the more optimistic scenarios, technology and policy has progressed so much by then that the 80% cuts will seem small, not big...

Via, GCC
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