How Can You Help Our Communities Become “Net Zero”?
You may have heard “net zero” used to describe certain homes, buildings, or communities, but its meaning may still feel unclear. Indeed, there are several definitions, although each revolves around the idea of producing zero net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This means that renewable sources meet all energy needs or, alternatively, that any GHG emissions released are less than or equal to the GHGs absorbed by offsets, such as planting trees, so GHG emissions are, on balance, zero. What is the Compact doing to help the Cape and Islands become a net zero region, and how can you support this progress?
Since burning fossil fuels – including coal, oil, and natural gas – creates GHG emissions, becoming a net zero community requires a multi-faceted approach, with steps that include:
- Decreasing direct fossil fuel use (e.g., burning heating oil),
- Lowering indirect fossil fuel use (e.g., electricity from a coal-fired power plant),
- Transitioning to cleaner energy sources (e.g., electricity from renewables).
The Compact is supporting each of these changes through the four steps outlined below; however, it is customers and residents like you that make this transition to a cleaner energy future possible.
Step 1: Improving the Energy Efficiency of Homes and Businesses
One practical method for reducing electricity use is by improving energy efficiency. The Compact offers no-cost energy assessments for residential and small business customers. During an assessment, energy auditors identify ways to reduce energy waste, provide select energy-saving products at no cost (like LED bulbs and low-flow water fixtures), and connect customers with relevant incentives for larger upgrades, such as those related to heating and cooling equipment, insulation, and thermostats. The Compact offers a suite of incentives for both residential and small business customers, covering select home appliances and commercial equipment, heating and cooling technology, and hot water heating systems.
Step 2: Increasing Reliance on Renewable Energy
Although the Compact does not generate energy, it operates a power supply program that supports the generation of renewable energy. The Compact works on behalf of customers by aggregating the energy they use and negotiating competitively-priced contracts with a power supplier, currently NextEra Energy Services. Since 2017, the Compact has ensured that its supplier matches 100% of power supply program customers’ energy use with Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs). RECs are a tool to track renewable energy generation: one REC represents 1,000-kilowatt hours of renewable energy generated by a qualifying source.
In addition, in 2019, the Compact launched its CLC Local Green program, which provides customers an opportunity to support renewable energy specifically generated in New England. Customers can opt to have an additional 50% or 100% of their electricity use matched by Massachusetts RPS Class 1 renewable energy certificates (RECs), which are generated only by qualifying renewable energy sites in New England. By opting to participate in any of the Compact’s power supply programs, customers are increasing demand for renewables and accelerating the transition to a cleaner electric grid.
Step 3: Motivating Market Transformations
Strategic electrification is a priority for the Compact and its fellow Mass Save® Sponsors, who share the goal of helping customers shift from technologies that rely on fossil fuels to ones that rely on electricity. As the grid becomes cleaner, electrification becomes an increasingly important tactic for creating net zero buildings and communities.
What are some examples of technology that align with strategic electrification? Cold-climate heat pumps (the Compact offers both residential and small business rebates) offer an energy-efficient heating and cooling solution; installations have increased notably across the Northeast in recent years, thanks to a combination of improved performance, incentives, and broader awareness. In addition, the Compact recently launched several demand response programs, including both commercial and residential ConnectedSolutions programs that offer customers incentives for reducing their electricity use during peak demand events.
Step 4: Engaging with the Community
Each year since 2017, the Compact has worked with communities across Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard to secure grants for energy efficiency and clean energy projects made available through the Massachusetts Green Communities Designation and Grant Program. Only municipalities that the State designates as “Green Communities” – based on five criteria related to a commitment to clean energy and sustainability – are eligible for these grants. The Compact has aided municipalities with completing applications to become Green Communities, as well as supported existing Green Communities with meeting program requirements and securing funding.
In addition, the Compact partners with local organizations committed to decarbonization, such as the Cape Cod Climate Change Collaborative, which works across a variety of stakeholders to encourage innovation and progress toward making the Cape and Islands a net zero region. The Compact is proud to have sponsored the Collaborative’s Net Zero 2020 virtual conference this year, bringing together stakeholders to share ideas on creating a healthier, more sustainable future for the Cape and Islands.
The idea of making Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard net zero may seem daunting, but it’s small changes that will help us ultimately meet this larger goal. For instance, you can start with energy efficiency upgrades around your home or business to reduce energy use, switch from propane or oil to electric heating options like heat pumps, enroll in the Compact’s CLC Local Green Program to support the generation of renewable energy in New England, or participate in relevant community events and conferences. As more customers take these steps, the region will move closer to generating net zero GHG emissions.