UPDATE: Speaker Mariano and Senate President Spilka have indicated that if Baker vetoes, or pocket-vetoes the bill, they’re just going to refile it — and presumably pass it with a veto-proof majority.
In other words, Baker might as well sign it and take credit. We’re looking to 2022 … is he?
Bottom-line: Governor Baker hasn’t signed the climate bill yet, nor the economic development bill. Call him up at 617-725-4005 to support both.
Charlie Baker is making us nervous. While I still doubt he’d actually pocket-veto it, he has not yet signed the landmark An Act Creating a Next Generation Roadmap for Massachusetts Climate Policy (Bill S. 2995). The Globe’s Jon Chesto reports that it’s because real estate developers are afraid that part of the bill allowing a net-zero stretch code will add too much to costs of construction.
What is a “net-zero stretch code”? A stretch code is an optional, more stringent building code that municipalities can adopt; in this case it would require that a building’s emissions would be “net-zero” emissions, ie. that it would create enough energy to cancel out whatever emissions it creates.
As this letter from the Boston Society of Architects describes (thanks to Chesto and the Globe for mentioning it), getting buildings down to net-zero is a critical “wedge” in any state-wide strategy to lower emissions to net-zero by 2050. Buildings are around for a long time: We have to build the net-zero buildings of 2050 now. Retrofitting them is far more expensive than simply building in efficiencies and net-positive energy production (e.g. solar panels). And while such design may be more expensive in the very short term (or not — more on that later), it saves money for the owner in its actual operation.
The BSA’s bottom line:
Net zero buildings are practical and achievable today. Our members have personally engaged in the design and construction of residential and commercial net zero buildings at many scales and budgets, including a broad range of building uses and architectural styles. As noted above, net zero buildings are achievable with today’s technology with little if any construction cost premium, resulting in dramatically reduced operating costs and lower total cost of ownership.
The BSA, in turn, points to this report by Built Environment Plus (aka the US Green Building Council), which found:
1. ZE [zero-energy] buildings are being built in Massachusetts today with virtually no upfront costs.
2. Return on investment for ZE in Existing and New Office Buildings can begin in as little as one year for ZE ready buildings.
3. Of the six building types studied, all can be Zero Energy Ready (ZER) for upfront costs of 0-7 percent, and all types breakeven in eight years or less when there are no additional upfront costs.
4. Existing office buildings retrofitted to zero energy, with renewables, can produce a return on their investment in as little as five to six years in comparison to a code compliant renovation.*
5. Building energy demand can be reduced 44 – 54 percent across all building types with technology that’s readily available today.
Look, industry groups will always complain, and say the sky is falling. And then they innovate and adapt. And in the process of innovating and adapting they bring down the costs of compliance. That’s how regulation works: You need the stick. But they’ll make it work.
And in any event, let’s not always hand over the terms of the debate to the developer industry. We’re trying to do our part to stave off a global collapse of our ecosystem. Everyone has to step up, come what will and cost what it may.
Sign the bill, Governor.