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Charlie Baker shook by home energy conversion cost


“Innovation,” not edicts, is what’s needed to help homeowners get through the winter, Gov. Charlie Baker says.

A few months ago, Baker said he wanted to test the “mythology out there” that heat pumps aren’t a realistic heating alternative for single-family homes in a cold weather climate like Massachusetts has by having his home evaluated as a potential electrification candidate.

The “mythology” that the governor was talking about in April is more about whether a heat pump, which transfers heat from the ground or air indoors, can effectively warm old New England homes like the 140-year-old one that Baker owns in Swampscott. But when he had experts out to take a look, he saw first-hand another one of the barriers to electrification — the cost.

“Our house was all radiators when we moved into it; it was built in 1880, OK? We’ve converted more than half of it to forced hot air, OK? I had people come to tell me what it would take to sort of replace the rest of the radiators with heat pumps — it was eye-popping,” Baker said last week when asked about the cost of a heat pump.

Massachusetts has committed to reduce carbon emissions by at least 33% by 2025, at least 50% by 2030, at least 75% by 2040 and at least 85% by 2050, with tag-along policies required to get the state to net-zero emissions by the middle of the century. Getting electricity from renewable sources and switching things that run on fossil fuels to use that cleaner electricity is the state’s primary strategy for meeting those requirements.

The governor made a pitch on GBH radio for one of the main features of his most recent climate legislation — a massive energy innovation fund seeded with American Rescue Plan Act money — and said he thinks the clean energy world needs to take a page from the COVID-19 response playbook to speed up technological advances that will help bring down the costs of electrification.

“The simplest comparison I can make to this is what really got us out of COVID wasn’t rules and regulations and requirements and orders, OK? It was vaccines, right, built off of years of people studying and figuring out how to do (mRNA) and getting it done in a very short period of time,” Baker said. “Innovation has to be part of the answer here.”


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