Massachusetts releases first-of-its-kind decarbonization roadmap that includes research and findings by Arup

Jackie Wei Green Jackie Wei Green Americas Head of Communications,Los Angeles
22 April 2021

Arup is celebrating the release of the Massachusetts 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap, a benchmark report that will help the Commonwealth meet its goal to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. The 2050 Roadmap lays out potential pathways to equitably and cost-effectively reduce emissions across the economy, diving deeply into: energy supply, transportation, buildings, land use, non-energy, and economic and health impacts. Commissioned by Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, a team of engineers and consultants at Arup, the Cadmus Group, Evolved Energy Research, and VEIC developed the report’s Buildings Sector analysis and conclusions.  

The Buildings team’s state-wide analysis reveals that buildings are the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachussetts, with single family and small multi-family homes as the largest source of building emissions. On-site combustion of fossil fuels in residential and commercial buildings was responsible for 27% of statewide greenhouse gas emissions in the Commonwealth in 2017, the latest year with official emissions data. With over two million individual buildings in Massachusetts, decarbonization of commercial and residential buildings will require an intervention in nearly every home and commercial structure over the next 30 years.

“The 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap makes it clear that to effectively combat climate change, we need to make retrofitting buildings of all types a priority,” said Rebecca Hatchadorian, Arup’s sustainability lead on the project. “The task before us now is taking action now where we can most cost-effectively and finding the best ways to support consumers in making the right decisions.”

The Buildings report looks at how quickly emissions reductions can be achieved across the buildings sector while ensuring that building occupancy remains cost-effective, comfortable, and healthy for Massachusetts’ businesses and families. Electric technologies such as air source heat pumps are available now and ready to be deployed for a large portion of the Massachusetts building stock, especially single family and small multifamily homes and many small and medium sized commercial buildings. Low- and zero-carbon fuels could support building decarbonization, particularly in large commercial and institutional building types that are difficult or more expensive to electrify. In order to achieve required emissions reductions by 2050 in the buildings sector, significant growth in the pace and scale of heating system retrofits is required. For the residential sector, that translates to an average of nearly 100,000 homes installing heat pumps or other renewable thermal systems each year for the next 25-30 years. The commercial sector requires a comparable level of effort. 

The Commonwealth’s Department of Energy Resources will work with the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council and the statewide efficiency program Mass Save® to channel all available program resources to promoting the adoption of clean heating systems no later than the end of 2024. Mass Save® will also develop increased air source and ground source heat pump incentives and consumer education resources. Additionally, the Commonwealth will develop a proposal for a new high-efficiency energy code for new residential and commercial buildings as an option for Massachusetts’ Green Communities and launch a Governor’s Commission on Clean Heat and an inter-agency Clean Heat Task Force.

The 2050 Roadmap demonstrates that by selecting appropriate, cost-conscious, and equitable strategies, Massachusetts can achieve its ambitious 2050 emissions limit while maintaining a thriving economy. Achieving net zero emissions will deliver significant benefits to residents across the Commonwealth, including a precipitous drop in air pollution, particularly in environmental justice communities currently overburdened with poor air quality; savings in health costs of up to $100 million per year; and the creation of thousands of high-quality local jobs. All eight of the pathways detailed in the report share core elements, including a balanced clean energy portfolio anchored by a significant offshore wind resource, more interstate transmission, widespread electrification of transportation and building heat, and reducing costs by taking action at the point of replacement for energy infrastructure.

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