In 2016, The Baker-Polito Administration announced the Affordable Access to Clean and Efficient Energy Initiative (“Affordable Access Initiative”).Lead by the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), in collaboration with the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), the Affordable Access Initiative aims to help low- and moderate-income Massachusetts residents access cost-saving, clean and efficient energy technologies. The Affordable Access Initiative launched with the creation of an inter-secretariat Working Group and a commitment of $10 million in funding from DOER and $5 Million from MassCEC.
In 2017. the Baker-Polito Administration announced the results of the Affordable Access Working Group as well as several program opportunities through this Initiative.
The Affordable Access Working Group met from April through August 2016 to review barriers to clean energy investment by the state’s low- and moderate-income residents and suggest improvements to housing and energy policies and programs to address these barriers. This collaboration between public, quasi-public, and private partners led to the development of the Affordable Access Working Group Final Report.. This report includes a summary of key barriers to clean and efficient energy adoption by low and moderate -income residents and sixteen recommendations to address these barriers. The recommendations can be generally organized into the following key areas:
- Recommendation Area 1: Maximize Clean Energy Opportunities at Key Times in the Affordable Housing Capital Cycle by Aligning Housing and Clean Energy Processes and Data
- Recommendation Area 2: Support and Strengthen Clean Energy Market Growth and Demand in the Low and Moderate Income Housing Developer and Homeowner Community
- Recommendation Area 3: Target and Structure Clean Energy Programs and Incentives to Better Serve Low and Moderate Income Residents
In coordination with the release of the final Affordable Access Working Group Report, DOER and MassCEC released multiple funding opportunities to support recommendations from the working group. These funding opportunities, coupled with initiatives already underway, represent the Administration’s commitment to help low- and moderate-income Massachusetts residents access cost-saving, clean and efficient energy technologies.
Affordable Access to Clean and Efficient Energy Initiative Programs
- In 2016, MassCEC announced an Income-Based Rebate Adder to make Clean Heating and Cooling programs more accessible to low and moderate income residents. These programs provide rebates for renewable heating, hot water, and cooling technologies that offer a high level of comfort, are generally more cost-effective to operate than traditional systems, and reduce carbon emissions.
- In 2016, MassCEC announced funding to four organizations that will use clean and efficient energy technologies to lower energy bills for low-income residents and reduce energy costs to operate multi-family affordable housing across the Commonwealth.
- DOER is continuing its successful work with DHCD to fund renewable thermal projects at state-sponsored public housing. These technologies provide up to 20% annual energy savings for the participating housing authorities, thereby reducing energy costs for the state and providing greater access to clean energy for Massachusetts residents that most need this support.
- Through the Affordable Clean Residential Energy (ACRE) program, DOER and MassCEC will competitively select and fund model delivery methods that provide renewable thermal technologies paired with solar PV to low-income, owner-occupied, single family homes.
- Through Affordable Access Regional Coordination (AARC) Grants, DOER’s Green Communities Division will fund Regional Planning Authorities (RPA) and other public technical assistance organizations to develop programs and provide clean energy training to municipal or community organizations that support low income populations. This funding will allow RPAs to increase knowledge of the Commonwealth’s low income residential clean energy programs, expanding the reach of existing successful programs.
- Through the Zero-Energy Modular Affordable Housing Initiative (ZE-MAHI), DOER will fund programs that demonstrate significant potential improvements in the energy performance of manufactured housing in the Commonwealth through the replacement of existing manufactured homes with new modular zero energy housing. This grant opportunity builds on DOER’s successful Pathways to Zero grants for commercial zero-energy buildings.
- Through its Whole Building Incentive Program Request for Information (RFI), DOER will gather feedback that will be used to develop a Whole Building Incentive program for subsidized and public affordable housing. The Whole Building Incentive program, to be released later in 2017, will fund demonstration projects that install both energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies to maximize energy cost savings at subsidized and public affordable housing.
- In addition, DOER has allocated funds for a competitive grant for a low income community shared solar project that will demonstrate the effective use of the next solar incentive, Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART), to provide energy and dollar savings to low income residents. This opportunity will be finalized as the SMART program is finalized.