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Massachusetts passes new thermal energy bill

The Massachusetts House of Representatives has recently passed a renewable thermal energy bill to take effect on January 1 of 2015. The new bill will encourage consumers to switch to clean renewable fuels and technologies that heat and cool homes and buildings. The state Senate passed the bill unanimously on June 19, and it's expected to be signed by Governor Deval Patrick soon.

The bill, called SB 2214, offers financial incentives for multiple thermal renewable energy heating and cooling alternatives. Geothermal and air-source heat pumps, solar heating and bio-fuels such as wood pellets are some of these alternatives that will qualify for incentives. They are likely to become more widely used by consumers as a result. 

Geothermal heat pumps set to become popular energy source
Over recent years, solar power has soared in popularity across the nation as it becomes more readily available and more affordable as an alternative energy source.  According to ACHR News, Massachusetts residents may witness the same success with renewable heating devices and technologies like geothermal systems because they have been added to the Legislature's official list of favored energy sources.

Although state policy makers and regulators have kept an eye on renewable electricity projects for years, this is the first time they have worked to actually promote projects that use renewable energy for heating or cooling.

The Massachusetts Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard started back in 2009 as a means to rewarding consumers for installing alternative energy systems in their homes and businesses. The Boston Business Journal wrote that the APS law requires retail electricity suppliers to buy Alternative Energy Credits from power sources such as windmills, biogas plants and solar arrays to counteract the energy produced from environmentally harmful fuels like coal or oil. This ultimately makes electricity rates partially rely on the number of credits available on the market.

Thanks to this new bill signed into law by Governor Patrick last month, renewable heating and cooling sources have been added to the alternative energy sources that qualify for a similar incentive as of Jan. 1. Now that there are more AECs available from renewable heating systems, geothermal heat pumps are going to drop in price along with electricity rates.

"Passage of SB 2214 is great news, and a huge victory for the geothermal heat pump industry in Massachusetts and across the country," said GEO president and CEO Doug Dougherty. "We provided technical and financial assistance to the effort, and worked the bill at the grassroots level. In late July, we called each of our manufacturer members' distributors and dealers in the state, prompting at least 15 to personally call the chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means in support of the bill," according to ARCH News. 

David O'Connor, the state's energy resources commissioner from 1995 through 2007, said that the final steps of implementing the bill include successfully negotiating with environmentalists to assure them that biomass-fueled heat would be highly efficient and use sustainable forestry practices. 

How consumers will benefit
The statewide effort to promote geothermal among other heating and cooling systems is significant, for geothermal systems greatly contribute to consumer ability to produce zero energy buildings powered by clean energy from unique sources such as hot springs and other earth heat sources. 

It has also been confirmed that the state's addition of renewable heat to the APS law will not impact electricity rates negatively like many initially believed it would, according to the Boston Business Journal. 

Bill SB2214 will likely have a major impact on how many Massachusetts residents turn to geothermal systems and other renewable heating and cooling systems to power their homes. The cost of geothermal is also expected to fall and help reduce the state's carbon footprint.

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