With the passage of HB 4385/SB 2214 early last month, Massachusetts has joined New Hampshire and Wisconsin as the only states to provide incentives for the use of clean, renewable fuels to heat and cool buildings. Signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick in early August, the landmark energy legislation extends eligibility for the state’s ‘alternative energy credits’ to biomass, biogas, liquid biofuels, and other renewable thermal technologies. These credits, which will now be awarded to producers of renewable thermal energy, must be purchased by retail electricity providers in fulfillment of the state’s existing Alternative Portfolio Standard (APS).

The legislation will help the state to both reduce its greenhouse gas footprint and reap the economic benefits of stabilizing fuel costs and local job creation. In Massachusetts and other states with cold winters and/or hot summers, renewable thermal fuel production has been disproportionately low in relation to the typically massive rates of general thermal energy consumption. With commercial building owners and homeowners spending as much as a third of their entire annual energy expenditure on heating and cooling, the bill will allow Massachusetts to ensure that a slice of this thermal energy consumption comes from a clean, renewable source. In addition, the bill directs that all eligible energy sources have low emissions, high rates of efficiency, and use sustainable forestry practices.