By Andy Metzger


STATE HOUSE — Environmentalists are calling on Massachusetts officials to accelerate their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, urging policymakers to set new long-term targets and focus on the transportation sector and “solar-ready” new homes.

In a report released Wednesday, Environment Massachusetts called for the state to aim for reducing 2030 greenhouse gas emissions to at least 45 percent below 1990 levels.

Environment Massachusetts also expressed concern about the state’s ability to hit an earlier benchmark for greenhouse gas reductions. The 2020 target is for gas to be 25 percent below 1990 levels and in 2011 Bay State emissions were only 15 percent below the 1990 level.

In a conference call with reporters, Environment Massachusetts State Director Ben Hellerstein said the state could miss the 2020 target by 20 percent unless “decisive action” is taken, and he said transportation, which is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases, is particularly lagging in reduction goals.

A bright spot in efforts to transition off fossil fuels has been the solar energy market, and according to the report Massachusetts has 200 times as much solar energy as it did in 2008. The report recommends aiming to obtain 20 percent of the Bay State’s energy from solar by 2030.

Bills passed by the Senate (S 1979) and filed by Gov. Charlie Baker (H 3724) would expand a program where businesses and government agencies can sell solar electricity to the grid at retail rates. Baker’s bill would eventually scale down subsidies that are being used to grow the solar industry.

Geoff Chapin, the CEO of Next Step Living, a solar company that rapidly expanded in recent years, welcomed a clear plan to ween the industry off incentives.

“Unlike fossil fuels, renewable fuels will be getting off these subsidies,” Chapin said. He said, “We need a consistent and clear ramp-down plan.”

A close business associate of Chapin later said he was likely referring to federal tax credits that discount the cost of solar installations by about a third. Those tax credits are set to expire at the end of 2016, said Larry Aller, Next Step Living director of business development.

Aller said it’s “too early” to say whether he supports Baker’s bill, though he said it’s positive that the governor wants to lift the net metering cap, which limits the amount of solar that can be sold to the grid at retail rates.

Utilities have opposed efforts to lift the cap, arguing ratepayers without solar panels wind up footing the bill.

Chapin said his business was founded in 2008 in Boston, and has grown from 15 people to 650 employees, along with more than 500 contractors and a territory that includes Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York. Technology employed by Next Step captures the heat from restaurant stoves and uses it to heat water and can save restaurants $4,000 to $6,000 per year and reduce carbon output by 19 tons per location, Chapin said.

The report, which was written by the Frontier Group and Environment Massachusetts, recommends immediately doing away with the net-metering cap.

Warning of particular vulnerabilities Massachusetts has as the climate changes and sea levels rise, the report also advocates for a requirement that “all new homes” be built “solar ready.”

David Begelfer, CEO of the commercial development advocacy group NAIOP Massachusetts, objects to the Senate bill that enhances solar incentives and requires a statewide comprehensive climate management plan.

The bill, which was filed by Senate President Pro Tem Marc Pacheco, mandates that all licenses, permits and approvals be consistent with the climate change management plan “to the maximum extent practicable.”

The Environment Massachusetts report noted environmental downsides to importing hydroelectric power from Canada, proclaimed vast wattage could be harvested through offshore wind and said alternatives to driving could help reduce transportation emissions.

In addition to more walkable and bike-able infrastructure and better public transit, the report suggested that ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft – which use automobiles to ferry customers – could be part of the effort to reduce gasoline emissions.

Hellerstein, who previously worked for Green Corps, a “field school for environmental organizing,” said the ride services, which are competing with the taxi industry and being targeted for regulation, are “innovations that are helping people not have to rely on their own private vehicle.”

The report claims Massachusetts has the potential to develop 200 gigawatts of offshore wind, which is enough to match statewide demand 11 times over.