Cambridge City

Committee Report
CRT 2019 #45
Jun 10, 2019 5:30 PM

A communication was received from Donna P. Lopez, former City Clerk transmitting a report from Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Co-Chair and Councillor Quinton Zondervan, Co-Chair of the Health and Environment Committee for a public hearing held on May 21, 2019 to discuss the “City of Cambridge getting to Net Zero Action Plan: Fiscal year 2018 progress report” and to receive a general update on the Net Zero Action Plan.


Department:City Clerk's OfficeSponsors:
Category:Health & Environment





Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Co-Chair
Councillor Quinton Zondervan, CO-Chair

Councillor Dennis Carlone
Councillor Craig Kelley

Councillor Allana Mallon

In City Council June 10, 2019


The Health and Environment Committee held a public hearing on May 21, 2019 at 1:05     P.M. in the Sullivan Chamber.


The purpose of the hearing was to discuss the “City of Cambridge getting to Net Zero Action Plan: Fiscal year 2018 progress report” and to receive a general update on the Net Zero Action Plan.


Present at the hearing were Vice Mayor Devereux and Councillor Zondervan, Co-Chairs of the Committee, Councillor Carlone, Councillor Mallon, Councillor Siddiqui, Assistant City Manager for Community Development Department Iram Farooq, Director of Transportation and Environmental Planning, CDD, Susanne Rasmussen, Environmental Planner, CDD, John Bolduc, Net Zero Energy Planner, CDD, Seth Federspiel and City Clerk Donna P. Lopez.


Also present were Florrie Wescoat, 33 Market Street, Susan Ringler, 82 Kinnaird Street, Charles Teague, 23 Edmonds Street and Elie Yarden, 143 Pleasant Street.


Councillor Zondervan convened the hearing and explained the purpose. He announced that the meeting is being audio and video recorded.


Ms. Rasmussen gave context to the document and the state of affairs regarding climate change. She stated that the Net Zero Action Plan (NZAP) was adopted in 2015 and an aspect to the plan related to transparency and oversight of the implementation of the plan and the outcomes. She stated that part of the specific oversight structure is that each year a plan update is issued and then presented to the Climate Protection Action Committee (CPAC) as they have been appointed and has been given the role of the oversight committee. The process is embedded in the NZAP plan as well as a comprehensive five-year review process. This is the progress report for fiscal year 2018 (ATTACHMENT A). The concept of climate change has continued to worsen since the work began in 2015. She stated that the International Panel on Climate Change, a UN body, and the scientists that advise this body to have informed us that global warming has to be limited to an increase of 1.5 degrees Celsius in order to avoid catastrophic impacts of climate change. She stated that while there had been some improvements in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and are now tracking from what was the worst-case scenario that was improving and are now increasing. She stated that emissions are increasing because of the increased use of fossil fuel on American soil. She stated that in March 2019 additional information came from the IPCC and given the current understanding of the climate the trend line needs to go down at a steeper rate. She stated that the oceans are warming at a rapid pace than what was believed a year or two ago. She noted that the current advise is that emission need to be reduced over 2010 levels by 45% by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050.This has become more serious.  She stated that Cambridge along with the other thirteen metro community leaders committed in 2013 to carbon neutrality by 2050. These are two targets being reviewed now. This is a critical area of leadership for the City. She explained that Cambridge is leading in the region along with Boston on taking specific actions to address climate change. She noted that action contained in the NZAP are intended to get the City to carbon neutrality by 2050 and looking at the new 2030 target which was declared in March. She stated that the NZAP is seeking to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. She stated that since reporting last year the City has been extremely active in the community and have had extensive interaction with the owners and operators of buildings in Cambridge, in particular the large emitters found in the commercial sector of the City. She turned the hearing over to Mr. Federspiel to go through the details.


Mr. Federspiel stated that in the Net Zero reporting process an annual report is submitted on the action plan containing updates for the year. This is the third annual report for fiscal year 2018. This report was presented to CPAC in draft form in February and the City received feedback from CPAC regarding priority areas within the NZAP from CPAC’s perspective.  He stated that following this hearing the report will be released and available on the website. He spoke about a unique aspect of this year’s report. The beginning years focus on investigation of the feasibility of different actions and understanding different opportunities to pilot, ideas for implementation and how to move into full implementation of the programs and policies. He stated that as the City moves into the fourth year of the NZAP implementation program and if found through the studies that it is both technically and economically feasible to pursue the various actions there then need to be more policy recommendations coming out of these processes. He spoke about the next steps summary of the action plan and stated that over the next two years the recommendations of the NZAP will come back to the City Council for policy decisions and codification.


Mr. Federspiel stated that he would be highlighting the specific actions briefly and then go through the full fiscal year 2018 updates.


He stated that the first regulatory action is to amend the green building requirements in Article 22 of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance. He explained that this action was delayed due to conflicting language with the state code and the need to work out the details of regulation. He stated that the City is ready with a draft proposal that is going through the final review process and will be submitted to the City Council for adoption. He further explained that this will increase the standard for large construction projects over 25,000 square feet from LEED Silver certifiable to LEED Gold and add additional pathways beyond LEED and the opportunity to use Enterprise Green Communities and Passive House certification. This will specifically require enhanced commissioning and that buildings are operating as they are designed to operate and save as much energy as possible. There will be added a path to Net Zero narrative. This would ask how net zero would be achieved in the next thirty years. The goal is to bring this amendment to the City Council this summer. He stated that the amendments to Article 22 Green Building Ordinance provisions will be paired with the amendment exception in Article 22 for the addition of exterior insulation to buildings. He noted that the feedback from the affordable housing community that the existing projects looking to retrofit buildings in an attempt to make the buildings more efficient. The most cost-effective way to do this is often to add exterior insulation. He explained that where there is a short setback the current regulations do not allow for enough flexibility to allow the buildings to achieve the retrofit. He stated that after doing a study of the technical requirements the amendments proposed would increase the allowable insulation from 4” to 8” and decrease the allowable setback to 3 feet. A provision will be added to allow for a Special Permit if requesting a further exemption of these provisions.


Mr. Federspiel stated that the next set of regulatory actions is to the BEUDO (Building Energy Use Disclosure Ordinance). He stated that when the ordinance was passed in 2014 it included language that this be reviewed for effectiveness of the ordinance and whether it was having a significant impact on building energy use and whether the buildings were significant reducing their building energy use and if not, the Community Development Department should recommend amendments to the ordinance. He stated that with four years or reporting under the BEUDO there has been an average across the City of a 1% reduction in energy use per year and this is not meeting the target of reduction and significant savings, particularly in light of the scientific targets that have to be met.  He noted that Cambridge has been working with a stakeholder group of effected properties under BEUDO to explore what the amendments for performance measures and what form the amendments. He noted the ordinances passed from other communities. He stated that New York and Washington have adopted performance standards. The City will continue to work with the stakeholders’ group to propose a framework that could set ambitious targets for buildings in Cambridge and lay out the metrics for the targets in the initial proposed amendments and propose a working group, including stakeholders, that would identify the details of the policy. The details may include accommodations for specific building needs and exemptions for buildings that are working well or under some sort of hardship where targets could not be achieved. He stated that the goal is to come to the City Council with a framework for the amendments in the summer.  The framework will include a timeline for the stakeholder group to work out the remaining details of the policy.


Mr. Federspiel stated that the next policy is a potential density bonus or a FAR bonus for buildings that achieve Net Zero emissions ahead of the required timeline. The Net Zero requirement for most new buildings will be effective in 2025. The buildings that achieve Net Zero in advance of 2025 the action in the NZAP suggests looking at offering density as an incentive to push this activity. He stated that through the Envision Cambridge process this concept was studied and the consultant suggested a modest increase in density of 10-15% for residential and commercial buildings would be enough to incentivize the increased energy performance. He noted that in the spring there will be a technical study of what the criteria might be to achieve this on both the energy efficiency and the renewal energy side to define the Net Zero building. The plan is to take the technical study and go through a stakeholder vetting process to turn this into a policy proposal with a goal of presenting this to the City Council by early next year.


Mr. Federspiel stated that the City is looking at the potential for solar installation requirement on new buildings in Cambridge. He noted that solar has become increasingly cost effective and is an important strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to increase the resilience of buildings by enabling them to produce their own energy on site. He stated that recently Watertown adopted solar installation ordinance for new buildings that are 10,000 square feet. He added that California has a statewide requirement for residential buildings going into effect in 2020. He stated that like the density bonus the City is studying what the technical requirements might look like and plan to bring this to stakeholders and take the technical recommendations and see how this will form the basis for a policy recommendation to bring to the City Council in 2020.


Mr. Federspiel stated that this policy may not require action by the City Council. He stated that the first set of commitments for Net Zero Municipal Building begins in 2020. He stated that Community Development and the Public Works Department have been working regularly to discuss what up until now the Net Zero ready standards are for municipal buildings and what the Net Zero standards will look like. The details of the definition are being worked on in a way that could turn into a documented policy that can be reported back on to the City Council once it is adopted by the administration. He commented that the City has a strong track record of building energy efficient buildings without the use of fossil fuel. He gave examples of these building. He stated that once municipal buildings are powered by 100% renewable electricity the buildings will become Net Zero emissions because of all of the energy needs will be provided by carbon free energy supply.


He stated that the last action is the five-year review process for the NZAP. It was important to the stakeholders in the adoption of NZAP that the City regularly look at the changing science, technology and economics around Net Zero buildings. He noted that the NZAP includes a provision that every five years the entire plan should be reviewed to understand the effectiveness of the plan, how the technological, scientific and economic landscape around climate change has changed and make adjustment recommendations to the plan based on the updated conditions, going through a stakeholder process to accomplish this. He stated that a revised NZAP will be present to the City Council.


Councillor Carlone stated that he understands adding insulation to buildings and adding up to 4 inches on the outside of a wooden house is tricky from a detailed point of view. He suggested conferring with the Historical Commission as to what is a reasonable way to detail as it meets the foundation. A change in setback to 3 feet to the next building the 4 inches on the outside is acceptable. He agreed with the Net Zero FAR bonus. A building currently in process is seeking to be the greenest lab building in the New England. He agrees with the density bonus. Mr. Federspiel stated that we are only looking at the technical aspects of the density bonus. Councillor Carlone spoke about clean energy for municipal buildings are we further along with this than a year ago. Ms. Rasmussen noted that we need to arrive at a conclusion as to what is acceptable purchase of renewable energy.  She spoke about the possibility of going outside of the ISO New England territory that the City is in and buy into a large facility. She stated that this is important in connecting the Net Zero criteria because the same issue will come up (for private property owners complying with the NZAP in future). She stated that the City is engaged with their university partners and they have undertaken large purchases and are trying to figure out how to position the City in the best possible way. She stated that there was joint engagement and the City learned from this about making a cheaper purchase. Councillor Carlone stated that the goal is to save as much energy as possible. He commented that the weakest link is glass and asked will new standards address the glass issue. He stated that if the City is pushing for new standards will the City push to reduce the use of glass. This is all about style and tenants pay for the heat and air conditioning.


Ms. Farooq stated that the Net Zero standard are largely performance driven standards. She stated that the performance thresholds would have to be achieved once the regulation is triggered. In the interim the Planning Board has expressed an interest in thinking through the issue of glass buildings. The staff is convening to figure out a strategy as to what would be the appropriate way to address reducing the amount of permitted glass on building facades. She wanted a deliberative process over the summer to come up with recommendations that will lead to guidelines. Councillor Carlone spoke about National Guidelines for thirty years have recommended 40% total glass on buildings. He spoke about glass affecting the brain.


Vice Mayor Devereux asked about enterprise green community as an alternative to LEED gold and why this is appealing to affordable housing developers. Mr. Federspiel responded that enterprise green communities is a standard pathway for affordable housing developments. He stated that for them to pursue LEED gold is duplicative and they can achieve the same level of stringency through the enterprise green communities.  Vice Mayor Devereux asked who developed this standard. Ms. Rasmussen responded that this is primarily used in affordable housing communities and has to do with enterprises engagement in this area. She stated that the affordable housing community has asked to continue using this standard. Vice Mayor Devereux asked that if the City went from LEED gold to LEED platinum (in the Green Building requirements) is there a comparable level. Ms. Rasmussen: will not go to platinum because so close to Net Zero this would be bypassed. Vice Mayor Devereux asked about BEUDO what the target for existing buildings and the amount of reduction that is can be achieved in a small amount of years. Mr. Federspiel stated the science-based targets is what the City is looking to benchmark for the existing building. He stated that the IPCC recommended 45% by 2030. Vice Mayor Devereux spoke about how much push back the City can expect.


Councillor Siddiqui spoke about the rooftop solar ready requirement and asked about green roofs in general. She asked how green roofs fit into the Net Zero conversation and if it can be made easier if individuals want to have rooftop gardens. Mr. Federspiel responded that this will be part of the technical study. It is possible to have both green and solar roofs. Councillor Siddiqui asked when the studies will be happening. Mr. Federspiel stated that the technical study is being done now and should be completed by the end of this fiscal year and use this for a stakeholder driven policy and recommendations.


Councillor Zondervan stated that his house was constructed in l980 and that he has reduced the overall energy consumption by 20% over fifteen years with 50% of the remainder coming from solar. He stated that at 45-50% reduction using on-site generation is a feasibility.


At this time Mr. Federspiel addressed the 2018 status report. He addressed a graph that showed the targets. He provided a summary of the five action categories of the plan. Each action has a green, yellow or red light indicating on track, delayed or stalled. He stated that this year a new parking status was added. He stated that for some actions it no longer makes sense to move forward. He stated that he will discuss barriers and next steps.


The first action plan deals with energy efficiency in existing buildings. He stated that there are four actions in this category. The custom retrofit program addresses how to help existing buildings to achieve the targets. In FY 18 the multi-family energy pilot was implemented. This applies to buildings with between 5-50 units. He stated that 40 properties have been successfully enrolled equaling 1300 units. They are offered solar advising and retrofit adviser service. In FY 19 the City began to look at a process with the larger building owners to understand the opportunities to enhance the existing state incentive programs. He stated that Massachusetts has been ranked # 1 in the nation for the last eight years for its energy efficiency programs. He added that there are a lot of resources available to buildings to achieve energy savings and greenhouse gas emissions. He noted that many buildings in Cambridge are not taking advantage of these opportunities. He stated that the City has been working through a stakeholder process with the BEUDO as well as Eversource to think about tailoring the offerings to make them more accessible to these buildings. A recommendation will be submitted later this year about how a program would take shape to help accelerate the retrofit process in these buildings in a way that is cost effective and subsidized by the state program. 42:24


Mr. Federspiel stated that the City is at the early stage of looking at time of renovation or sale as a trigger point for building retrofits. The feasibility assessment is at the early stage to look at what are the options and their impact. He noted that there will be no policy proposal until the technical options have gone through a strong stakeholder vetting process to understand the impact of any of the actions.

Mr. Federspiel spoke about the operations and maintenance plan requirement being parked because in the development of the BEUDO requirements that operations and maintenance are required through the LEED commissioning process which will be incorporated as a provision in the revised green building requirements and to have a separate operations and maintenance requirement would be duplicative; therefore the City is not pursuing this action separately.


Mr. Federspiel stated that the second detailed action plan deals with new buildings and there are 5 actions as follows:

              Market based incentive program: this action was parked now as it is in the density bonus action.

              Height and FAR bonus are moving forward, independently.

              Changes to Article 22 of the Zoning Ordinance is delayed because of regulatory issues but is expected to move forward with stakeholder support.

              Increased insulation moving forward with the Article 22 revisions.

              Net Zero requirements for new buildings and new municipal buildings and retrofit of municipal buildings. In FY18 the City undertook 12 efficiency projects and 4 solar projects. In FY19 another 13 projects are underway. He stated that the upgrade at the Water Treatment Power Plant saved $175,000 each year.


Mr. Federspiel stated that turning to the energy supply, the third detailed action. There are three:

              Low carbon energy supply strategy implementation. He stated that the City has continued to work on green energy options through the Cambridge Energy Aggregation Program and the municipal electricity program. He stated that a renewable energy strategy is being kicked off to learn how to decarbonize the energy being supplied to heat and cool buildings.

              Rooftop solar ready requirement. The solar ready provision is parked because the state has adopted a solar ready requirement through the state energy code.  This applies to many buildings in Cambridge and it was not necessary to duplicate this requirement.

              Developing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with local utilities has been parked because when working with the utilities having an overarching MOU seemed less effective than working on a project by project basis. He stated that Eversource was chosen as a partner to retrofit buildings and changing heating systems.


The fourth detailed action plan is the Local Carbon Fund. He stated that the principle of this fund would be to give buildings the flexibility to achieve the Net Zero standards as they are implemented to allow them to invest in energy saving projects. He stated that this action is behind its implementation schedule but is continuing. In FY19 a feasibility study was done. He stated that investigating a Local Carbon Fund is moving forward.


The fifth detailed action plan focuses on Engagement and Capacity Building about the plan. For communication strategy will use the communication materials that the City has developed over the years. He stated that the first Net Zero Action Plan Newsletter went out last summer. There is active civic engagement being done. This year a city-wide climate communication framework was reviewed that could include both climate mitigation and climate resiliency actions. The potential next step could be looking at this integrated communication approach. He spoke about continued accountability and capacity about implementing the Net Zero Action Plan. This annual reporting process is part of this overall approach. There is oversight by the CPAC. They are provided updates on the plan and it is through this action that the five-year review will be launched. He stated that lastly there is dedication action on development of Net Zero laboratory standards and acknowledging the unique challenges pertaining to Net Zero laboratory. This has been a success story for Cambridge. This sector has been engaged through the Cambridge Compact for a Sustainable Future and has a Net Zero Lab working group and has been given the resources to develop Net Zero Lab standards. 


Councillor Zondervan asked if the City Council had any clarification questions.


Vice Mayor Devereux asked does Kiosk count as a municipal building to be Net Zero. Ms. Farooq stated that the City has not thought through this. Vice Mayor Devereux asked what is Eversource doing for their own buildings in Cambridge. She asked if Eversource would be subject to these standards. Ms. Rasmussen stated that their buildings are subject to zoning and if the building is over 25,000 square feet they are subject to these standards and should be reporting under BEUDO.


Councillor Carlone asked if the standards are by construction project or by actions. Mr. Federspiel responded by actions. Councillor Carlone regarding the virtual study asked if this will be tabulated or is what is learned in these findings. Mr. Federspiel stated that the consultants have built an excel based model and the different building inputs are added as tested for different parameters that the final deliverable will be a report describing the findings from this process. Councillor Carlone asked what the premium of the Net Zero municipal buildings is. Ms. Rasmussen stated that there has not been rigorous attempt to quantify this and it is hard to compare municipal buildings with other buildings because the City does other things that are premium.


Councillor Zondervan opened public comment at 2:11 PM.


Susan Ringler, 82 Kinnaird Street, stated that she went to all the Net Zero Task Force meetings as a private citizen. She stated at the end of each meeting in 2014 she stated that the City is not moving fast enough then and are way behind now. She stated that the City gets an F on this. She noted that residents wanted something in 2013 - 2014 which was reasonable in light of the science of the time. The City created a task force which watered it down and now the City is not doing well. She stated that the City is giving itself ten green lights and 4 yellow lights; this is not acceptable. She commented that the BEUDO plan only applies to building over 25,000 and the only way the City will get retrofits on buildings is to first get them to measure their expenditure. She added that every old building that changes hands needs to have a measurement requirement added to the next owner. She stated that the City is not being responsible to the residents. She agreed with the notion that there are too many glass buildings. She stated that residents asked that the buildings be built for the future and not the past. The issues that are parked and with BEUDO all buildings need to be measured. She spoke about the world being on fire.


Eli Yarden, 143 Pleasant Street, spoke about the outcome of a BZA meeting was a continuance because the BZA did not have the votes to approve what Eversource was requesting. He stated that Eversource made it clear at the BZA meeting that their planning needs to be citywide and do not have the ability to deal with this on a project by project basis. He stated that there are no grounds for MOU being reached. He gave the background what happened. The consultant for Eversource divided the abutters of the proposed addition on Putnam Avenue and the fact that there was a separation regarding the housing. There are 120 units that abut this site. The separation of the abutters and the focus on landscaping rather than on the engineering raised concern. He stated that Eversource needs 5-10 years to plan and that Eversource is a privately held company and is constrained to be responsible to its shareholders. The value of the Eversource shares depends upon their ability to persuade individuals that more electricity is needed. He asked if any of this is workable; it seems not. Eversource has no response to climate change. He spoke about the grounds for a class action suit will be on the city’s failure to respond.


Charlie Teague, 23 Edmond Street, agreed with Ms. Ringler; the City gets an F. The affordable housing partner on Concord Avenue stated that in their presentation that the industry cost for Net Zero is 5-7% increase and the City is proposing doubling this as an incentive. For 4” in insulation you offer 38” decrease in the setback. Alexandria sold $1800.80 per square foot. He stated you do not have to be giving our money away; just past the laws. He stated that the labs are changing the air, and this is the reason for the increase in energy. He suggested zoning to ban double hung windows. He stated that the proposal is to give away our building rights and our quality of life to people to make more money.


Ginger Ryan 35 Crescent Street, a member of Mother’s out Front, asked about re-evaluation of 2020 of the timetable. She stated that the benchmarks need to be pushed up. Labs are the biggest use of green gases is 2030. Communication with citizens is difficult in Cambridge. She spoke about how little people are aware of the climate crisis. She hoped legislation action coming in 2020 are pushed up to 2019.


Steven Nutter, Executive Director, Green Cambridge stated that Green Cambridge has been part of the process from the beginning. Cambridge was one of the first to have a NZAP, but the facts have been proven. The next steps in the Net Zero path is legislation, and policy implementation by the City Council and the administration. He stated the ordination of the tree ordinance was to highlight the importance of trees. He stated hat until something is passed there will be no change. He spoke about using existing programs as a means of communication to the residents. He spoke about using existing programs to communicate about Net Zero. He noted that there are still 700-800 individuals who have opted out of the 100% renewable energy program out of 35,000 basic service rate payers. He stated that the progress is so incremental. He urged pushing harder and communicating better.


Lee Farris, 269 Norfolk Street, stated that it is good to see a comprehensive plan with measurable steps. She would like it to move faster. She stated that there was no measure of the opt into the green energy and should be in the report. She asked has the City tried to partner with Eversource to do mailing and suggested give $20 off next energy bill if you opt into the program. She spoke about 40 multi-family buildings enrolled and how many are not retrofitting. She asked could the City partner with this Eversource and Assessors and target the larger buildings and give money to the owners of large buildings for doing a list of things within a certain period of time. She asked about retrofitting existing municipal buildings; the municipal buildings are not called out and should be. She asked if there is a place on line where it is transparent to see who are in the stakeholder groups.


Councillor Zondervan closed public comment at 2:34 PM.


Councillor Mallon stated that she liked the idea of partnering with Eversource and every time an individual receives a letter that they are not measuring up with your neighbors on energy efficiency it would be a great place to show how energy efficiency could be achieved.


Councillor Zondervan spoke about the five-year review and the most important thing is how to move this agenda more quickly. He spoke about engaging the public and hard to make headway. There is an opportunity to communicate more and reach more people than in the past. He stated that one of disturbing aspects of the report is the lack of progress on an MOU with Eversource. He stated that seeing that so much of our emissions are from the utility producing the electricity. This cannot be done without the utilities being active and effective partners. He wanted to hear more how it was determined that a MOU was not the way to go.


Ms. Rasmussen stated that it is important to look at the Cambridge building stock and emissions which come from the existing large buildings, which are commercial buildings. The City is trying to come up with strategies that work for large buildings and what is the path forward for the lab buildings. The lab air changes are regulated by federal standards. It is not unusual for a lab to have an energy use intensity that is 10-20 times greater than the buildings being built now. It is challenging for the lab sector. She spoke about the importance of transitioning the building stock to electricity over a thirty-year period. She added that the City cannot sustain more than the most minimal amount of fossil fuel consumption by 2050 and what is the pathway to convert all buildings to electricity overtime. There was thought that there would be an overriding MOU to provide information from Eversource to the City and the process became challenging. The collaboration with Eversource with direct program delivery was more important. The Eversource program delivery is based on a 3-year plan. She stated that two things have been added: the solar advisor was added and secondly, a retrofit advisor. The City provides an advisor to help owners implement. She stated that the programs are still not effective for multi-family buildings. She stated that in the next three years the City needs to come up with a plan that will work with the buildings that are in Cambridge. She stated that the City is trying to figure out through a retrofit advisor helping the City to understand why there is no more comprehensive energy efficiency implementation when someone takes advantage of the Eversource programs and Mass Save Programs and what needs to be done to restructure for this to actually work better. She stated that the City is focused on working with MAPC and other communities to more effectively weigh in for the next round of planning so that these programs help urban areas more than now. She stated that this is complicated. She stated that the building stock is complicated, the split incentive makes it challenging when the owner pays the bill for the improvements and the tenants pay the utility bill. She stated that as the City is moving toward electrification these projects are bigger and require more upfront capital. She spoke about loans that travel with the tax bill rather than with the building owner (PACE). She stated that the City needs to think about getting these programs structured in a way that effective intervention can happen and can be subsidized by the rate payers’ money. Reallocation needs to be given more attention. She spoke about the City’s limitation to provide funding for these changes. She stated that the BEUDO amendment is the best way to affect the large buildings. On the renewal energy side, she stated that the state set the standards for the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) and how quickly the state will advance towards a greater degree of renewable energy. She stated that the City is involved with working with MAPC and other groups in an effort to push for renewable electricity to be available faster at a greater percentage.


Councillor Zondervan asked about the local carbon fund and the cost of renewable are dropping and through the community choice electricity program the City will be able to offer 100% renewable electricity at a lower cost than Eversource in the future. He added that the savings should be captured and apply them towards energy retrofits. He spoke about asking individuals to donate on their energy bills and still pay less. He stated that the donations can be distributed freely to help others who cannot afford to do retrofits. The utilities need to work with the City on this work. The City will have to move in the direction of thermal energy. He stated that the City cannot allow new buildings that operate on fracked gas. We cannot permit buildings with too much glass that use fracked gas. This whole Net Zero effort started because of the frustration that new buildings will add to the emissions as the City is trying to reduce emissions. Five years later the emissions are increasing, and large buildings are being added that are built with too much glass and contributing to emissions. The new buildings can be prevented from adding to the problem.


Councillor Carlone stated that this is about the next generation. The City has to get the message out and push. The City View should have a “Call to Action” and include actions taken or actions that could be taken to reduce emissions. Let this be sobering but this is how there will be action.


Vice Mayor Devereux spoke about the challenge of multi-families and that 2/3 of residents do not have direct control of their energy and it is difficult to engage no matter what communication is taken. At the 5-year re-evaluation is there a possibility there will be a reduction in the qualifying threshold from 25,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet. Ms. Rasmussen stated that anything is on the table. She added that from a mathematical perspective, the large buildings are where the most emissions come from. She noted that this is about taking steps that drive down emissions from commercial buildings where the energy intensity is high. Ms. Farooq stated that the challenge is what does this mean to the building owner and there is more of a burden for the smaller buildings. The stakeholder process and any change have to be adopted by the City Council. The voluntary approach has been taken by the City for the smaller projects. The challenges for multi-family buildings are significant.


Councillor Zondervan stated that this cannot be put on individual residents or small property owners to solve this problem. The cost has come down so much that the problem is the upfront investment. He explained that he has done changes to his home and has reduced the energy consumption from the grid source by 60%. It is important to get energy down in labs. The utilities, state and federal government have to get involved. Cambridge can control what can be built in Cambridge and the City needs to get more stringent. The City has to do more somehow. He is looking forward to the ordinance amendments and will submit Policy Order to be forwarded to the City Council to begin the ordination process. 


Councillor Zondervan and Vice Mayor Devereux thanked all those present for their attendance.


A communication was received from Joshua Hartshorne expressing his disappointment with the scale of the Net Zero Plan (ATTACHMENT B).


The hearing adjourned at 3:00 P.M.


                                                                      For the Committee,





                                                                      Councillor Quinton Y. Zondervan, Co-Chair

                                                                      Vice Mayor Jan Devereux, Co-Chair

                                                                      Health and Environment Committee


Meeting History

Jun 10, 2019 5:30 PM Video City Council Regular Meeting
draft Draft