Decarbonizing All of Massachusetts: The Role of Heat Pumps in Energy Equity

March 07, 2024

Clean. Equitable. Affordable.

The Sponsors of Mass Save® are proud to support a clean energy transition guided by equity and affordability. As heat pumps continue to be an important component of the state’s path to decarbonization, the Sponsors are proud to have installed more than 95,000 heat pumps throughout Massachusetts since 2019, centering equity and affordability in the process.

Two key considerations when evaluating a transition to heat pumps for income-eligible customers:

Financial Burden

  • Gas is a more affordable heating option compared to electricity, even for low-income customers who often receive a discount on their gas and electricity rates.
  • Switching low-income customers from gas to electric heat pumps can lead to a significant increase in heating costs. For customers who live below the poverty line, this is simply not a viable option.

Landlord-Tenant Dynamics

  • In multi-family households, where landlords may be responsible for heating costs, there is a risk that the increase in heating costs from electrification upgrades will be passed to tenants.
  • This exacerbates the financial burdens already being faced by individuals from low-income households.

The Sponsors work closely with trusted local Community Action Agencies (CAAs) to support low-income customers, providing weatherization, barrier mitigation, and new heat pumps at no cost. CAA partners deliver complete project management for the customer, providing guidance, technical expertise, and contractor management and oversight to ensure the most appropriate decarbonization strategy for low-income customers. These partnerships ensure customer access to our robust program offerings, focusing on improving comfort, lowering energy burdens, and delivering results – all while prioritizing equity and affordability.

From 2010 to 2021, the Sponsors and The Low-Income Energy Affordability Network (LEAN) – the statewide network of CAAs – have supported over $1 billion in energy efficiency solutions to serve nearly 500,000 low-income customers throughout the state.

What’s even more impressive? These solutions are provided to low-income customers at no cost.

The Sponsors of Mass Save, in partnership with LEAN, have supported the installation of heat pumps in 3,600 low-income housing units across Massachusetts since the start of 2022 and have over 3,500 low-income housing units in the process of being installed.

Because the current economics of heat pump conversion strongly favor a focus on delivered fuels, the Sponsors have targeted homes heating with oil and propane and in 2023 launched the Deep Energy Retrofit Pathway for affordable housing complexes which targets low-income households.

Massachusetts has a robustly diverse population, housing stock, and mix of existing heating fuels in homes, a notable difference from other states in the region such as Maine and Vermont that are also working on heat pump adoption. Building on the success achieved in Massachusetts requires uniquely tailored solutions that meet the varied needs of the Commonwealth’s citizens and building types. This focused approach has helped us become national leaders and will continue to create a path to success in the future.

The Sponsors are dedicated to supporting all customers’ transition to clean heating sources, a crucially important step in achieving Massachusetts climate goals in an equitable manner.

A clean energy future should not be determined by economic privilege. By working with CAAs across the state to serve low-income customers, the Sponsors of Mass Save are helping close gaps and ensure equitable access to heat pump adoption and a clean energy future. Their commitment to energy equity will help the state achieve climate goals and allow low-income communities to be included in a clean, equitable, and affordable energy future.