Massachusetts House Speaker Deleo Proposes $1B for Energy Efficiency Grants

Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo has unveiled a plan to spend $1 billion over the next 10 years to help cities and towns adopt new technology designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions, strengthen infrastructure projects and reduce municipal costs.

The initiative — called GreenWorks — would include funding for renewable energy, energy efficiency and climate change resiliency efforts.

The Democrat said the competitive grants would be available for municipalities to pay for projects like solar power, energy storage, microgrids and electric car charging stations. He said he hoped the availability of the grants — if the proposal becomes law — could help nudge communities to pursue renewable energy projects.

DeLeo made the announcement Friday at Greentown Labs in Somerville, described as the nation’s “largest clean technology incubator.”

DeLeo said the funding would come from the sale of bonds. He hoped the Legislature would take up the measure this year. He called the plan a “realistic and practical approach” to increasing renewable energy and toughening infrastructure for changes in the climate.

He said local communities are already aware of the challenges posed by climate change. The availability of grant funds could also help nudge some to think about ways to increase their reliance on renewable energy projects, he said.

“This will give them the opportunity to do those projects,” DeLeo said. “They’re going to have to have come up with some good ideas.”

Although he represents Winthrop, DeLeo said the challenge of climate change isn’t just the concern of coastal communities.

“This deals with every single city and town no matter what their needs may be,” he said.

Greentown CEO Emily Reichert said DeLeo’s proposal meshes with the company’s “mission to support clean tech startups and help get their technologies to market.”

Under the plan, the grants would be administered by the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

The state continues to take steps to boost its reliance on renewable energy.

Earlier this month, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker announced more than $500,000 in funding for what he described as eight “early-stage clean energy companies.”

Environmental activists are also pushing a slew of bills aimed at reducing the state’s carbon footprint and minimizing waste.

One bill seeks to help save taxpayer dollars spent trying to recycle what the Conservation Law Foundation describes as wasteful packaging. The group said communities have little control over the flood of disposable items and have had to pick up the cost of recycling that material that they say can run to tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

The bill would shift some of those recycling costs back onto the companies that create the packaging.

Another piece of legislation would require all large-scale fleets of vehicles in Massachusetts — public and private — to go electric by 2035.

Yet another bill would update appliance efficiency standards on more than a dozen products, including commercial dishwashers, commercial fryers, water coolers and faucets.

DeLeo’s proposal echoes a 2008 initiative — signed by former Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick — that committed Massachusetts to spending $1 billion over 10 years to jump-start the life sciences sector, attracting the best minds, research facilities and the venture capital funding.

By most yardsticks, Patrick’s gamble has paid off with Massachusetts — and the greater Boston area in particular — seen as a top life sciences hub.

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