On Wednesday night, I attended the Cambridge Getting to Net Zero Task Force’s public presentation a draft of their final report. For a little bit of background I’ll explain what the task force, which has been working for the past 15 months, is all about. In 2013 there was a petition to the city to create a new zoning ordinance that would require buildings to achieve net zero emissions. The city was interested in this idea, as they are committed to increasingly mitigating climate change in order to improve the environment and continue to be a vibrant economy, but they felt they needed to explore the topic further and thus created the task force.

The task force is comprised of residents, industry experts, businesses, and university stakeholders who were tasked with defining net zero, understanding the potential issues and advantages of implementing the requirement, thinking about economic feasibility, and creating a plan to propose to the city. The city would then use this recommended framework to create more detailed strategies.

The Massachusetts energy code follows a model code (the International Energy Conservation Code) that is updated on a regular cycle, and MA is currently required to adopt these updates. The model code is currently planned to trend over the next 16 years to increase energy savings to a point where buildings could then support their remaining energy use through renewable sources as opposed to fossil fuels. This is the basic definition of net zero energy. Thus there is the expectation that the MA energy code trend will require net zero energy buildings for new construction by about 2031. However, the Cambridge task force sees that it is possible for buildings both existing and new construction in their city to achieve net zero energy and in less time for certain types of projects. They also realize the path to net zero is different for urban verse suburban or rural locations and that creating a plan that is specific to Cambridge is critical. I agree that every municipality may have a unique plan, but it is also important to think of synergies across the state especially in renewable energy systems.

As a resident of Cambridge, I applaud and encourage the commitment the city has to net zero energy. I hope to see a firm commitment to this on a statewide level as well. Massachusetts continues to rank as the number one most energy efficient state in the country, and I know that we will come up with successful solutions on a path to net zero energy.

I’ll let you peruse the task force web page to see the plan which they presented on Wednesday. http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/Projects/Climate/netzerotaskforce.aspx

Topics: Sustainability