Environmental justice advocates are praising Massachusetts for a new energy efficiency plan which prioritizes outreach to improve health and comfort in underserved communities, especially the poor and communities of colour.
The US$668-million plan fixes a flaw that advocates flagged in the previous Mass Save program, which provided free energy audits and efficiency rebates to residents, but served lower-income households much less than it reached more affluent, whiter areas, reports Energy News Network. The new plan addresses the concern that people of colour, non-native English speakers, renters, and poorer households were being left out, advocates say.
“They’re saying, ‘Let’s figure out how to make sure everyone paying into the program is able to access and benefit from the program,’” said Eugenia Gibbons, Massachusetts director of climate policy for Health Care Without Harm. “The plan is a good step forward.”
Included in the plan is a $6-million investment to help municipalities and community groups share insights into the language, cultural, and economic barriers that may be limiting participation in Mass Save.
“Community-based organizations can identify place-based approaches to engaging residents in these programs,” Ruth Georges, supervisor of equity, strategic partnerships, and work force development for Eversource, one of the utilities that administers Mass Save, told Energy News Network.
The plan also aims to make it more financially rewarding than previous plans for utilities to work with underserved communities.
“Work force development is another major goal of the plan,” writes Energy News, Network noting that the Clean Energy Pathways program is comprehensively mandated to “train candidates for careers in energy efficiency, provide them with nine-month paid internships, and help them find full-time work when they are done.”
The program is intended to do more than help connect people to good jobs: “when residents of underserved communities see their neighbours going to work in energy efficiency, it builds both awareness and trust.”
Energy News Network adds that the Pathways program will be most timely, as “even without this ambitious new plan rolling out, Massachusetts is already short on energy efficiency workers.”