Baker-Polito Administration Awards $2.2 Million to Innovative Projects to Expand Access to Clean Energy

Matthew Mogavero

BOSTON – The Baker-Polito Administration today announced $2.2 Million in grant funding to 32 Massachusetts organizations, nonprofits, and local governments to develop and implement community-based initiatives to increase access to the benefits of clean energy or to meaningfully reduce energy burden for previously underserved populations in the Commonwealth. The funding was awarded through the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s (MassCEC) EmPower Massachusetts Program, and provided by both MassCEC and the Department of Energy Resources (DOER). To further expand opportunities like the EmPower program, Governor Baker recently filed the FORWARD Act, which directs $750 million in funding to support the clean energy industry. The EmPower Program is managed by MassCEC’s buildings division, which would receive $300 million of the $750 million contained within the legislation, greatly expanding the division’s ability to engage in more partners throughout the state.

“It is critical that we confront the challenges of global climate change at a local level by moving purposefully and quickly to a clean energy future,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “The funding we have proposed to invest in clean energy through the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center is targeted to workforce development, buildings and transportation, ensuring that all residents of the Commonwealth are able to participate in the benefits of the clean energy transition, which are exactly the results the EmPower Program works to achieve.”

“Too often, historically underserved communities lack the resources to take advantage of the opportunities that are created by emerging technologies,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “The EmPower program will provide the resources to enable Environmental Justice communities to directly benefit from the Commonwealth’s developing clean energy economy.”

The projects funded by the EmPower Program will support the exploration, development, and implementation of a variety of approaches to increasing equity and access to clean energy through projects and programs. Projects are eligible to seek funding under two distinct grant opportunities, Innovation and Capacity Building Grants and Implementation Grants. Innovation and Capacity Building Grants provide funding up to $25,000 to identify and develop innovative solutions to increasing access to the benefits of clean energy and/or reducing energy burden to priority groups, including Environmental Justice (EJ) populations, and to increase organizational capacity to support long-term ability to identify and implement these solutions. Implementation Grants provide funding up to $150,000 to implement innovative projects and program models that serve the specified priority groups, including EJ populations and renters.

“Funding from the EmPower Program will enable Environmental Justice communities across the Commonwealth to access significant resources that will improve local air quality and reduce their energy burdens,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card. “Ensuring historically underserved residents and communities experience the benefits of the clean energy transition remains a priority for the Baker-Polito Administration, and we are thrilled to provide these grants to well deserving projects and we look forward to additional funding being allocated to MassCEC to support even more projects like these.”

EmPower grants for the 32 organizations and project sites represent partnerships of organizations totaling 84, in neighborhoods and communities spanning from Eastern to Western Massachusetts and include various projects in EJ neighborhoods and 15 Gateway Cities. The projects will focus on serving a targeted range of Massachusetts residents, including low-income, non-English speaking, and minority communities. They offer a range of innovative approaches and partnerships to bring the benefits of clean energy, and meaningfully reduce energy burden to underserved communities, including multilingual community outreach campaigns, workforce development initiatives, and community solar photovoltaic (“PV”) projects. In addition to greenhouse gas emissions reductions, these projects are expected to result in utility bill reductions, quality-of-life benefits, and economic development opportunities including workforce development, training, and job creation.

“MassCEC has been proud to lead the way in developing community based clean energy programs,” said MassCEC CEO Jennifer Daloisio. “While our previous programs like HeatSmart have been very successful, the EmPower Program builds from those models to develop a program that purposefully reaches into and enables those within underserved communities and centers to actively participate in the state’s efforts to reach its 2030 and 2050 climate goals. We are at a moment in time where increased support for workforce training and clean energy innovation and deployment will be critical, especially for our most vulnerable populations.”

The 32 organizations, nonprofits, and local governments receiving EmPower Program grants include 19 receiving funding for Innovation and Capacity Building Grants. They are: 

  • Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC), Partners: Valley Home Insulation, Arise for Social Justice, Neighbor2Neighbor MA, Springfield Works – $25,000 – funding to conduct outreach to Black and Brown Springfield residents and industry stakeholders/experts to refine their idea for a Green Workforce Business Initiative.
  • Grove Hall Main Streets – up to $25,000 worth of in-kind technical assistance – funding will support Grove Hall in technical and feasibility studies to explore clean energy and energy burden reduction opportunities in the Grove Hall Neighborhood of Dorchester including researching opportunities on flat roofs and vacant lots.
  • Browning the Green Space, Partner Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology – $25,000 – funding to support targeted student outreach and recruitment efforts, training and professional development, and student support for BFIT's new Renewable Energy Technology associate degree program.
  • Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), Partners: Alternatives for Clean Energy and Environment (ACE), and Boston Housing Authority (BHA) – $25,000 – funding to explore and develop a future program that will pair clean energy resources and Section eight housing voucher access, building off the Solar-for-Vouchers program in Minnesota (which provides technical support to landlords to install solar PV in exchange for renting to housing voucher holders).
  • Resonant Energy, partners: MySunBuddy and Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation – $25,000 – funding will support the exploration of software, the Solar Equity Platform, which leverages the SMART program to offer excess solar PV net metering credits directly to households in environmental justice neighborhoods in Boston.
  • Berkshire County Regional Planning Commission, Partners: City of Pittsfield, BEAT, Center for EcoTechnology, Berkshire Community Action Council – $24,000 – funding to perform research on the mechanisms for addressing the landlord/renter split incentive challenge, which includes an analysis of Pittsfield’s market conditions, researching nationwide case studies for related program models and tools to address the challenges, options for energy efficiency, and development of an outreach and education campaign for landlords and renters and seeking potential local energy efficiency coaches.
  • Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts (ULEM), Partners: HeatSmart Alliance and Code for Boston – $25,000 – funding to do community engagement and research on interest in air source heat pump (ASHP) adoption in and around the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, as well as ASHP job interest/barriers/opportunities. With this funding ULEM will explore approaches to spurring ASHP adoption and to reduce barriers to accessing HVAC job training. 
  • Worcester HEART, Partnership Fiscal Agent: Main South CDC, Partners: Worcester NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Committee, RMI/Building Electrification Accelerator, Main South CDC, Mothers Out Front Worcester, Sustainable Comfort, Resonant Energy, Worcester Community Action Council, N2N Worcester – $25,000 – funding to coordinate and support the activities of a local coalition laying the groundwork for a pilot that holistically addresses the health and safety of tenants and the energy efficiency and electrification of homes without increasing tenants’ cost of living, eventually piloted on six triple deckers in the City of Worcester and inclusive of opportunities for the development of a local workforce, inclusive of priority group (largely EJ populations) members.
  • Mill Cities Community Investments (MCCI) – $25,000 – funding to support their residential lending team in expanding awareness of their current home improvement loan programs via outreach and education to target communities. The project outcomes would be building organizational and staff capacity to expand awareness and adoption of current energy efficiency offerings to low-and moderate-income residents in the Merrimack Valley. 
  • Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation (CSNDC), Partner: West of Washington Coalition (WOW) – $25,000 – funding to build organizational capacity for West of Washington (WOW) Coalition, an organization that serves the WOW neighborhood of Dorchester, and to deepen its expansion of the CSNDC Energy Ambassador program with this news grassroots partner.
  • Quincy Asian Resources, Inc. (QARI), Partners: City of Quincy, Town of Randolph – $25,000 – funding to hire a staff person, an “Energy Advocate”, to conduct outreach to Asian and immigrant communities in Quincy and Randolph, with the goal of increasing participation in MassSave® and other available energy efficiency programs and planning for a comprehensive outreach strategy to immigrant communities in both towns, with potential to scale beyond those towns once internal capacity and expertise is built.
  • City of Lowell, Partners: 350 MA Greater Lowell, UMass Lowell – $25,000 – funding to in order to hire a full-time “Energy Advocate” to conduct energy efficiency outreach in EJ communities in the City of Lowell, in concert with their participation in the MassSave® Community First program in 2022.
  • Cooler Communities (Fiscal Agent: NESEA) – $11,522 -funding to perform research and outreach to find the most successful strategies and best practices for engaging students in EJ communities to increase their access to climate solutions and elevate the impact they can have in their communities, and results will be documented and shared widely.
  • Town of Amherst, Partner: Family Outreach of Amherst – $25,000 – funding to conduct tenant outreach to understand renters' concerns and ideal outcomes for their homes regarding energy efficiency in the Town of Amherst. The project outcome will be a white paper summarizing the renters' concerns and priorities, which will be used to inform the design of new programs or policies in Amherst such as rental efficiency standards.
  • Green Energy Consumers Alliance $25,000 – funding for staff time to provide case management services to low- and moderate-income and EJ members of their programs to identify customized clean energy and energy efficiency opportunities for these members and help them to pursue these opportunities. The funding will also support staff to explore potential development of a “Solar Bank” program to provide net-metering or Alternative On-Billing credits to these members, as another opportunity for reduction in energy burden. 
  • GoMortonGreen – $25,000  funding to perform research and develop a comprehensive, documented report designed for translating and informing approaches to clean energy education and outreach, to explore methods and models for EJ communities, to inform energy advocate–styled positions for future outreach and education campaigns, and to share these campaigns broadly.
  • Cape Ann Climate Coalition (CACC), Fiscal Agent: Gloucester Meetinghouse Foundation – $24,510 – funding to conduct stakeholder engagement and outreach to inform a future large scale energy efficiency and clean energy outreach campaign focusing on low-income residents, renters, and building owners in Gloucester EJ neighborhoods.
  • North Shore Community Development Corporation (NSCDC) – $25,000 – funding to hire a consultant to assess the feasibility of solar installation across their affordable housing portfolio, as a method of revenue generation to be reinvested in CDC services, targeting housing in the Point Neighborhood in Salem.
  • Sustainable Middleborough, Fiscal Agent: First Unitarian Universalist Society of Middleboro – $16,280 – funding to hire a consultant to develop a “Middleborough Weatherization Guide” designed to provide local, community-specific information on weatherization resources focused on EJ neighborhood residents in Middleborough and to the continue their engagement with local EJ community-based organizations

Additionally, there are 13 organizations receiving EmPower Program funding for Implementation Grants. They are:

  • Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation, Partner: All In Energy (CSNDC) – $150,000 – funding to expand their community-based Energy Ambassador program in the Codman Square Neighborhood in Dorchester by adding five new Energy Ambassadors who lead by example by first installing clean energy on their properties and then will perform outreach to community constituents about clean energy and energy efficiency programs.  
  • Emerald Cities Collaborative, Partners: Action for Boston Community Development (administrator of the States Low Income Affordability Network), Metropolitan Area Planning Council, New Ecology Inc – $150,000 – funding to implement a partnership and training program to connect Minority, Disadvantaged, or Women-owned Business Enterprises (MDWBE) with affordable housing retrofit projects. An expansion of their current Affordable Housing Retrofit Contractor Academy, this project will include developing a directory of targeted business support services to address well-known challenges for MDWBEs.
  • GreenRoots, Partner: City of Boston – $150,000 – funding to implement a solarize-style education and outreach program in East Boston, focusing on installing affordable solar PV and battery storage for area residents, especially low- and moderate-income residents.
  • All In Energy, Partners Groundwork Lawrence, New Ecology Institute, Resonant Energy, Valley Home Insulation – $150,000 – funding to implement a program to connect residents and small business owners to income-eligible clean energy and energy efficiency programs, with a focus on reaching Spanish speakers in cities and towns in the Merrimack Valley and North Suffolk regions.
  • Climable, Inc., Partners Chinatown Community Land Trust, Chinese Progressive Association, and GreenRoots, Clean Energy Solutions, Inc. and LSO Energy Advisors – $150,000 – funding to implement an energy democracy resilience microgrid model in areas of Chelsea and Chinatown.
  • Cooler Communities, Fiscal Agent: NESEA – $52,565 – funding to hire two new staff members to exclusively focus on outreach work to Pittsfield and Springfield communities and assist them in taking carbon emission–reducing actions, building on Cooler Communities’ educational programs in the public school systems of these two cities and support the cities participation in the MassSave® Community First Program.
  • Housing Nantucket, Partner: ACK Smart – $50,000 – funding to develop and implement a clean energy “revolving fund” model that would allow them to first install solar PV systems on their affordable rental home sites (beginning with six homes), offering utility bill savings directly to residents and revenue to Housing Nantucket to be re-invested in future solar and energy efficiency programs.
  • RL Cook Community Consulting – $150,000 – funding to conduct an outreach campaign to BIPOC in Mattapan about clean energy tech programs, develop a "Green Bulletin Board" website, and conduct a survey to interview residents of color who have solar PVs.
  • Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Partners: Resonant Energy and MACDC – $150,000 – funding will support the enhancement of the second phase of their Solar Technical Assistance Retrofit program, an initiative designed to remove barriers and dramatically increase the adoption of solar PV for affordable housing developments across the Commonwealth.
  • The Capital Good Fund, Partners: HomeWorks and Bright Home Solution – $127,950 – funding to conduct a clean energy and electrification outreach campaign featuring an multilingual “Energy Concierge” position, exclusively dedicated to the advisement and guidance to priority group homeowners on energy efficiency and electrification upgrades.
  • The Compliance Mentor Group (TCMG), Partner: NESEA – $150,000 – funding to utilize TCMG’s Construction Mentor Program (a youth workforce development program) to expand the curriculum to include clean energy and importance of reducing household energy burden, to engage students and young adults from area vocational schools and programs serving EJ communities, and to deliver nine learning and career discovery events that include job site tours and shadowing.
  • Solstice Initiative – $145,124 – funding to co-develop a community solar PV project to benefit Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan residents, largely driven by a community advisory board; the target project size is expected to be 200-400kW community solar farm, providing access to clean energy for up to 100 households.
  • Resonant Energy, Partners: All-in Energy, Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation (CSNDC) – $150,000 – funding to launch a fourth round of their Solar Access Program, which rents rooftops from low-income residents in exchange for solar PV credits.

“From the day they took office in 2015, the Baker-Polito Administration has prioritized the development and expansion of clean and renewable energy sources for Massachusetts,” said House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading). “This latest round of grant funding underscores the Administration’s ongoing commitment to building a sustainable clean energy future that provides benefits for all residents of the Commonwealth.”

“I applaud MassCEC for awarding this critical funding to increase access to clean energy and reduce the energy burden for the state's most vulnerable residents,” said Representative Jeffrey N. Roy (D-Franklin), House Chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy. “This effort builds on the Legislature's ongoing commitment to a green and just transition, including environmental justice safeguards and clean energy equity workforce programs put forward by the House and codified in the Next-Generation Roadmap bill.”

The EmPower Program funding builds upon the Baker-Polito Administration’s ongoing efforts to prioritize Environmental Justice communities while supporting the Commonwealth’s vibrant clean energy industry. In March 2021, Governor Baker signed comprehensive climate change legislation that increased the Administration’s authorization to solicit an additional 2,400 megawatts of offshore wind, bringing the state’s total commitment to 5,600 megawatts. In December 2020, the Administration released two reports—the Massachusetts 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap Report and an interim 2030 Clean Energy and Climate Plan—that detail policies and strategies to equitably and cost-effectively reduce emissions and combat climate change. The 2050 Roadmap found that the most cost-effective, low-risk pathways to Net Zero share core elements, including a balanced clean energy portfolio anchored by a significant offshore wind resource, more interstate transmission, and widespread electrification of transportation and building heat.