Renewable TechNew legislation has been passed in Massachusetts that requires utilities to use more renewable energy when heating and cooling customers.

The bill, awaiting Governor Deval Patrick’s signature, rewards utilities with Alternative Energy Credits (AECs) for heat and air conditioning generated by renewable technologies. Such renewables include solar, geothermal, biofuels, bio-oils and renewable natural gas. These AECs are required by the state’s Alternative Portfolio Standard (APS), which mandates a percentage of Massachusetts’ total electric load be supplied by alternative energy (currently 3.5 percent and increasing by 0.25 percent every year).

The APS was created to complement Massachusetts’ Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS) – one of the first programs in the U.S. that mandated a portion of the state’s electricity be generated by renewable technologies.

The RPS requires that regulated distribution utilities and competitive suppliers obtain a set percentage of electricity from renewable sources. That began with an obligation of just 1 percent in 2003, increasing by 0.5 percent annually until 2009. As part of the Green Communities Act of 2008, the RPS was broken into RPS Class I and RPS Class II, with Class I’s obligation set to increase by 1 percent annually.

The APS was also created by the Green Communities Act of 2008 and allows utilities to obtain energy from non-renewable sources that are not fossil fuels. Prior to this latest bill, this included flywheel storage, coal gasification and steam technologies.

Such comprehensive energy policies are why Massachusetts recently made Environment America’s list of top 10 solar states. Over the last decade, Massachusetts has endeavored to work with existing utilities to craft achievable renewable energy mandates, offering incentives for both alternative and clean electricity.

Once signed, the new bill will go into effect January 2015.

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