With the most prominent global climate event kicking off, Climate Week NYC 2022, the environmental community has genuine excitement and optimism. The optimism is spurred by the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), recently signed into law by President Biden. Its climate change and energy innovation elements represent Congress’s most significant climate investment ever made. In Massachusetts, this is coupled with Governor Charlie Baker signing the “Act Driving Clean Energy and Offshore Wind” bill into law – which outlines the roadmap for how Massachusetts will meet its ambitious climate targets and clean energy goals for 2050 – potentially further solidifying New England’s status as a national leader.
While the IRA is projected to reduce the country’s carbon emissions by roughly 40% by 2030, Massachusetts businesses, government, and the climate communities continue to grapple with how to reach net zero emissions. It will be heartening to see Climate Week’s organizers bring together the world’s most influential leaders in climate action to explore the impact of buildings and infrastructure on climate. Still, event stakeholders need to capitalize on recent momentum while staying focused on what will have a tangible, real-world impact.
Today, buildings represent nearly 40% of greenhouse gas emissions and a third of global energy demand, so it’s critical that net zero buildings be powered by renewable energy. Given the outsized role that commercial buildings play in emitting carbon in major cities, carbon-free renewable energy technology can provide a one-stop- shop for institutions considering the right approach with enforceable emissions performance standards. As the first company of its kind in the U.S. to electrify its operations, we are committed to offering renewable thermal energy by installing electric boilers, industrial-scale heat pumps, and thermal storage at our central facilities starting in Boston and Cambridge, with additional locations to follow. Not only will this technology reduce a building’s carbon emissions, but customers will also be able to achieve their ESG goals while complying with regulations.
With district energy, thermal energy is produced at a central facility and distributed to individual buildings via underground piping, eliminating the safety risks associated with onsite generation. District energy systems are agnostic to fuel type. This fuel flexibility enables the use of lower-carbon, local sources of energy, increasing the resiliency and security of the network and the health of our communities. Decarbonization upgrades to Vicinity’s centralized facilities immediately benefit the entire network. As more new renewable technologies and sources come online, district energy systems will easily integrate into existing distribution systems.
In 2024, Vicinity’s first electric asset will enter service. At that time, the company will procure electricity from renewable, carbon-free energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydro to generate our steam product. Unlike onsite generation – which intrinsically involves onsite combustion as part of the energy generation process – district energy is a much safer alternative.
President Biden’s pledge to reduce U.S. emissions from 2005 levels – by at least in half within the next several years – and achieve net-zero emissions by 2050 is ambitious. One key to understanding how Greater Boston institutions will reach these goals can be found in the upgraded and innovative use of district energy. As Climate Week NYC 2022 celebrates recent progress and debates the opportunity to transform traditionally hard-to-abate sectors, it will be necessary for thought leaders to recognize the radical shift that has recently occurred within our industry. Commercial building owners in Boston already see the difference.
We look forward to demonstrating this technology’s role in more significant decarbonization debates as we expand into additional markets in the near future.