State and Local Policy Database

Boston

City Scorecard Rank

1

Boston, MA

82.00Scored out of 100Updated 5/2015
Local Government Score:
9 out of 15 points
Local Government Summary List All

Boston’s 2014 Climate Action Plan Update and Energy Reduction Plan detail the city’s energy and climate strategies for its internal government operations. Boston’s varied strategies work to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions from municipal buildings, streetlights, transportation, and procurement of new equipment.

Last updated: February 2017

Local Government Energy Efficiency Goals List All

In 2007, then-Mayor Menino set the goal of reducing municipal greenhouse gas emissions 7% by 2012 and 80% by 2050 compared to 1990. The 2014 Climate Action Plan Update expanded upon these goals to include a goal to reduce municipal and communitywide greenhouse gas emissions 25% below 2005 levels by 2020. The Boston Transportation Mobility Plan includes climate change as a major design parameter for the planning process, and the Department of Neighborhood Development is developing a new housing plan for Boston, which will include broad sustainability principles. According to data in Boston’s municipal greenhouse gas inventory, the city reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 27% between 2005 and 2013.

Stringency

In order to meet its local government energy goal, Boston would have needed to greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1.7% per year.

Progress

Boston has achieved its local government greenhouse gas goal for 2020.

Reporting

Boston releases an annual report on its progress toward reducing municipal greenhouse gas emissions and related initiatives on the Climate Action website. The city reports annual emissions figures in the City of Boston Municipal and Community Greenhouse Gas Inventory

Last updated: January 2017

Procurement and Construction List All

Vehicle Fleets and Infrastructure

The 2007 executive order on climate action required that municipal departments purchase hybrid, alternative-fueled, or high-efficiency vehicles whenever possible; newmotor vehicles shall be the most fuel-efficient within their vehicle class. Boston also has established a motor pool, FleetHub, using car-sharing technology, allowing the city to reduce the fleet size and maximize the use of existing stock. Additionally, Boston’s central fleet uses FleetWave as a business management tool to drive efficient operations; all central fleet vehicles are equipped with electronic IDs that track fueling.

Note: For local fleet initiatives, policies listed must make a specific, mandatory requirement for increasing fleet efficiency. Local alternative-fuel vehicle procurement requirements that give a voluntary option to count efficient vehicles are thus not included.

Public Lighting

Boston has not yet adopted a policy requiring efficient outdoor lighting, such as the International Dark-Sky Association’s Model Lighting Ordinance. However, the Energy Reduction Plan specifies a 40% reduction goal for energy use of streetlights in the city. The City of Boston is currently retrofitting its mercury and sodium vapor lighting to LED luminaires. To date, 76.3% of the City’s 64,000 electric street lights have been retrofitted, resulting in 35.6 million kWh in annual electriCity savings. The city's goal is to replace all of its streetlights with LEDs over the next few years.

New Buildings and Equipment

The 2007 executive order directed that all new municipal buildings must be LEED Silver Certified, but we could not confirm if the requirements specifically emphasized completion of the energy efficiency elements of the certification. Projects funded by the city under the Department of Neighborhood Development’s Green Affordable Housing Program must also meet the LEED Silver standards. Massachusetts State law mandates life cycle cost estimates for the early designs of new state or municipal buildings or energy systems (Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 149, Section 44M). The Purchasing Office and the Department of Innovation and Technology were required to issue Environmentally Preferable Procurement Guidelines, but it is unclear if energy efficiency requirements were included as part of these procurement guidelines.

Last updated: January 2017

Asset Management List All

Building Benchmarking and Retrofitting

In accordance with the 2013 Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance, Boston uses Portfolio Manager to benchmark energy use in 100% of its municipal buildings, which is 321 buildings and 17,751,655 square feet. The city’s integrated energy management plan, developed in 2004, laid out a retrofit plan for Boston’s top ten municipal energy users, and the plan is currently being implemented. Boston secured nearly $10 million in commitments from Eversource and National Grid to support the acquisition and installation of energy efficiency measures in city properties. In August 2014, the City announced completion of a $66.7 million energy efficiency rehabilitation of 13 public housing properties owned by the Boston Housing Authority (BHA). The work completed by project contractor, Ameresco, includes millions of dollars in energy savings, capital upgrades to BHA’s public housing portfolio, and the first-in-the-nation, public housing project-labor agreement, which provided an opportunity for BHA residents to embark on careers in the building trades through the Building Pathways Program. Based on the BHA success, the City developed an energy efficiency project finance program, called the Renew Boston Trust, that replicates field-proven finance models for municipal, housing, commercial and institutional sectors.

Public Employees

We did not find data on policies aimed at reducing the commutes of city workers, such as flexible schedules and teleworking.

Last updated: January 2017

Community-Wide Initiatives
Score: 9 out of 10 points
Community-Wide Summary List All

The city’s primary sustainability program is the Greenovate Boston initiative, which provides recognition to city residents and businesses saving energy and provides technical assistance resources including those to help with high energy bills, properly size air conditioning units, and save energy at work. 

Last updated: January 2017

Community-Wide Energy Efficiency GoalsList All

Boston’s initial climate goals were formally adopted in 2007 with Executive Order 3-3890 and the Greenovate Boston 2014 Climate Action Plan Update provided the most recent update to these goals. Boston’s goals are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25% below 2005 levels by 2020 and 80% below 2005 levels by 2050. Boston also has a goal of reducing energy consumption in all large buildings and institutions by 7%.

Boston reports progress towards greenhouse gas reductions in the Carbon Disclosure Project’s 2016 Citywide Emissions Database. The city has reduced its community-wide greenhouse gas emissions by 20% between 2005 and 2014. The city is currently on track to meet its goal for 2020.

Last updated: January 2017

Efficient Distributed Energy Systems - District Energy and Combined Heat and PowerList All

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) explored the potential for multi-user microgrids with integrated combined heat and power (CHP) in the 2016 Boston Community Energy Study (BCES) report.  The report identified 42 districts throughout the City with conditions favorable for a multi-user microgrids.

Last updated: January 2017

Mitigation of Urban Heat Islands List All

Mayor Thomas Menino created the Grow Boston Greener (now Greenovate Boston) program with the goal of planting 100,000 new trees in Boston by 2020 and increasing the tree canopy to 35%.

We did not find information on any policies that require or incentivize low impact development (LID) or conservation of private land. The city does not have a private tree protection ordinance.

Last updated: January 2017

Buildings Policies
Score: 27 out of 29 points
Buildings Summary List All

Boston has several building sector initiatives to improve efficiency including a “stretch” energy code, energy savings goals, green building requirements, and required energy rating and disclosure. The Inspectional Services Department manages building energy code compliance and enforcement for the City of Boston, while many of the other building energy policies are managed by the Office of Environment.

Boston is a US DOE Better Buildings Challenge Community Partner, committing to a 20% reduction in energy intensity in a portfolio of public and private buildings. Boston's Climate Action Plan, published in 2007, aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent by 2020 and includes energy efficiency strategies for buildings in meeting that target. The 2011 update to the Plan notes that 67% of planned reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are to be achieved through measures related to buildings and energy sources, with the majority coming from building efficiency.

Last updated: January 2017

Stringency of Energy CodesList All

The Massachusetts law requires statewide adoption of each new International Energy Conservation Code edition within one year of its publication. Massachusetts has adopted the 2015 IECC for commercial and residential buildings. Massachusetts also allows its local jurisdictions to upgrade their energy codes with a state-determined stretch code. To learn more about state policies regarding building energy codes in Massachusetts, visit the State Policy Database.

Commercial

Boston has adopted the Massachusetts Stretch Energy code, which requires new buildings to exceed the base energy code by 20%. The City advocates at the state-level for more stringent codes.

Residential

Boston has adopted the Massachusetts Stretch Energy code, which requires new buildings to exceed the base energy code by 20%. The City advocates at the state-level for more stringent codes.

Last updated: January 2017

Building Energy Code Enforcement and ComplianceList All

The city of Boston has internal staff dedicated solely to energy code compliance through its Inspectional Services Department. Boston requires building code officials to attend training for energy code plan review and inspection. Boston requires participation in third-party plan review and performance testing to verify compliance with energy codes. Boston does not provide upfront support to developers or owners for energy code compliance.  

Last updated: January 2017

Requirements and Incentives for Efficient Buildings List All

Green Building Requirements

Article 37 of Boston’s municipal zoning code requires that all new commercial projects over 50,000 sq ft. meet the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED certification standards. Article 37 also applies to all residential multi-family buildings over 50,000 sq ft. These residential multi-family buildings must also achieve a minimum LEED score of 65.

Energy Audit and Retrofit Requirements

As stipulated in Section 7-2.2 (f) of the 2013 Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance, buildings that are not ENERGY STAR certified or showing documented improvement in energy use reductions must take an “energy action“ including either an energy assessment (audit) or retro-commissioning every five years. This requirement covers both residential and commercial buildings.

Incentives and Financing for Efficient Buildings

The city, through the Renew Boston program, provides no-cost energy assessments for 1-4 unit residential buildings and additional financial incentives for select energy upgrade measures beyond those provided by the city’s utilities and Mass Save. For businesses, and large condo associations and co-ops (with greater than 4 units), Renew Boston in partnership with NStar, National Grid and RISE Engineering provide Boston businesses with technical assistance and financial incentives to lower the impacts of high energy costs. Renew Boston also provides a Small Business Direct Install program that provides assessments and financial incentives to improve lighting and mechanical systems. Development Review Guidelines for commercial buildings in the Stuart Street area have a standard maximum height of 155 feet, but if a project is certified as LEED Gold it is eligible for a height bonus up to a maximum height of 400 feet.

Last Updated: January 2017

Benchmarking, Rating, & Transparency List All

Commercial

In April 2013, the city council adopted the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance. The ordinance requires that all commercial buildings over 35,000 sqft benchmark their energy and water use using Portfolio Manager and report the data to the city annually. The city will then publically disclose the building-level energy use information on a website annually. The city publically discloses the building-level energy use information on a website annually. The city also releases analyses of energy use data provided through the policy. The policy also includes mechanisms for enforcement and penalties in cases of non-compliance. Boston has provided outreach and support to help property owners comply.

Residential

The Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance also requires that all residential buildings over 35 units benchmark their energy and water use using Portfolio Manager and report the data to the city annually. The city publicly discloses the building-level energy use information on a website annually. The policy includes mechanisms for enforcement and penalties in cases of non-compliance. 

The multiple listing service serving Boston includes a field for energy efficiency features of homes listed on the market.

Voluntary Benchmarking

Boston engaged non-governmental agencies to lead by example and voluntary report under the Building Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance before reporting was required. To date, state government, the regional transit authority, the water authority, and federal buildings in Boston are participating in reporting as a result of this initiative.

Last Updated: January 2017

Energy & Water Utilities
Score: 17.5 out of 18 points
Energy & Water Utilities Summary List All

Eversource, an investor-owned utility (IOU), is the primary electric utility serving Boston. National Grid (Boston Gas) is also an IOU and is Boston’s primary gas utility. Both utilities provide their customers with a variety of energy efficiency programs. The City of Boston partners with the utilities and is an active promoter of their efficiency programs. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires spending and savings targets for its utilities through an EERS. To learn more about utility policies and programs for the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts, please visit the State Policy Database. At the state level, Boston strongly advocates for additional spending requirements for energy efficiency projects for all of its utilities.

The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) is Boston’s regional water authority. MWRA provides its Boston customers with water and sewer services and bills customers. The Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC) owns the lines, hydrants, and pumping stations. BWSC also has jurisdiction over the stormwater management of the city. The City of Boston partners with MWRA and BWSC to increase the energy and water efficiency both at end use and throughout the system.

Last Updated: January 2017

Electric & Gas Energy Efficiency Programs, Spending & SavingsList All

In 2015, Eversource reported a net incremental electricity savings of 730,731 MWh, representing 3.15% of its retail sales. Eversource spent $247,917,974 on electric energy efficiency programs in 2015, accounting for 9.82% of its annual revenue. In the same year, National Grid reported 13.7 MMTherms in net incremental gas savings, representing 1.86% of its annual retail sales. To achieve these savings, National Grid spent $104,899,957 on natural gas energy efficiency programs, which is normalized to $128.62 per residential customer. These spending and savings values are for the utilities’ entire Massachusetts service territory, not just Boston. Eversource offers electric efficiency incentives and technical assistance to residential and commercial/industrial customers. National Grid similarly offers natural gas efficiency programs to residential and business customers. Both utilities also sponsor whole-building programs, including multifamily buildings, through the state-wide Mass Save program. Their “whole facility” approach focuses on a facility’s thermal envelope (shell insulation and air leakage conditions for units heated by natural gas or electricity) as well as lighting and mechanical systems.

The City of Boston partners with its energy utilities through the Renew Boston program. Renew Boston promotes energy efficient choices and informs Boston residents and businesses about utility-sponsored energy efficiency services. Through its community-centric outreach and education, Renew Boston helps ensure that the City's diverse homes and businesses are connected to available energy efficiency programs and incentives. Eversource continues to lend the City a manager that aids the City with energy efficiency project uptake and implementation. Moreover, the City and utilities are partnering on a joint marketing effort to increase residential home energy efficiency activities in Boston’s low- and middle income neighborhoods, with a focus on increasing home energy audits, weatherization, and heating system upgrades.

The City of Boston also takes an active role in advising the utility-sponsored energy efficiency programs through a seat on the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council (EEAC). The Massachusetts Green Communities Act of 2008 created the EEAC to assist in the development and implementation of the statewide gas and electric utility energy efficiency plans. These plans set three-year targets for electricity and natural gas savings. The EEAC did not include representation from Massachusetts' municipal governments until Boston advocated for the addition of a voting seat for an individual representing "a city or town of the Commonwealth" through An Act Relative to Competitively Priced Electricity in the Commonwealth. That seat is currently represented by a City of Boston staff person.

Last Updated: January 2017

Low-Income & Multifamily EE Programs List All

Low-Income Programs

Both Eversource and National Grid participate in the Low-Income Single Family Core Initiative, which is available to qualified low-income residential customers. This program provides no-cost energy efficiency measures to residential customers living in one to four unit dwellings in which at least 50% of the occupants have incomes at or below 60% of state median income. Eligible measures for this program include insulation, air sealing, repairing or replacing heating systems, and lighting fixtures. The initiative is implemented by local Community Action Program (CAP) Agencies and is integrated with the Department of Housing and Community Development’s (DHCD) Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).

Multifamily Programs

Both Eversource and National Grid offer the Multi-Family Buildings Program. This comprehensive program offers multifamily energy assessments that identify cost-effective efficiency improvement or replacement opportunities. Utilizing a “whole facility” approach, the assessments focus on a facility's thermal envelope (shell insulation and air leakage conditions) as well as lighting and mechanical systems. The program also assesses in-unit savings potential for tenants. Improvements that may be eligible for incentives include lighting upgrades/controls, occupancy sensors, water heating equipment, domestic hot water measures, programmable thermostats, insulation, air sealing, heating and cooling equipment upgrades/controls, ENERGY STAR appliances and other improvements as determined on a site-specific basis. Additionally, these utilities offer the Low Income Multi-Family Energy Retrofits Program. This program provides eligible projects the use of an online tool to benchmark a development/building’s energy use for one year, two building assessments to identify energy-saving opportunities (including electrical and heating audits, and installation of eligible cost-effective energy conservation measures.

Last Updated: January 2017

Provision of Energy Data by UtilitiesList All

In order for customers to access their own energy data, Eversource makes use of the Green Button data sharing platform. Eversource and National Grid provide whole-building energy use data to building owners for building benchmarking. Eversource and National Grid also provide technical assistance for Portfolio Manager, which includes assistance collecting proper data and entering in facility information. These efforts support the City of Boston's Energy Reporting and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO), which requires building owners to submit information to the City regarding their annual energy use, ENERGY STAR rating (if applicable), water use, and greenhouse gas emissions. 

Additionally, both Eversource and National Grid have provided a joint tenant-authorization form for multi-tenant building owners to collect aggregated building energy usage. National Grid provides this data by email, and Eversource allows building owners to collect their data from their Disclosure Portal. Eversource and National Grid also provide the City of Boston with annual community-wide aggregate-level electricity and gas usage information, which is published in the City’s annual greenhouse gas inventory reports. Moreover, under the MassSave Program, all Eversource and National Grid energy efficiency program data is made publically available online at MassSave Data. Both Eversource and National Grid also provide zip-code level energy sales data to the city of Boston upon request for the purpose of community GHG inventory reporting.

Through its seat on the Energy Efficiency Advisory Council and requests to the state legislature, the City of Boston actively advocates for polices requiring utilities to expand the availability and granularity of energy usage data.

Last Updated: January 2017

Efficiency Efforts in Water ServicesList All

Water Efficiency

The Boston Water and Sewer Commission (BWSC) and Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) fund water efficiency programs available to all water customers. While BWSC does not directly issue rebates and incentives under the MassSave program, Boston’s energy utilities—National Grid and Eversource Energy—do offer rebates and incentives for water saving technologies. Notably, Boston customers are offered no-cost water-efficiency kits that include kitchen and bathroom faucet aerators, a low-flow replacement showerhead, a water-efficiency gauge to test showerheads and sinks, and dye tablets to check for toilet leaks. Water demand in the MWRA territory has decreased by nearly a third since the 1980s, in part through efficiency initiatives. Although no community-wide water savings target have been adopted by the city or its utilities, the MWRA has a comprehensive, long-term strategy for water savings as described in their 2013 Water System Master Plan

Energy Efficiency and Self-Generation

MWRA has completed energy audits at 33 of its 36 major facilities. Implementation of audit recommendations and other process optimization efforts is estimated to save almost $2 million annually as part of its Long Term Sustainability Program. MWRA continues to reduce its electrical demand by optimizing process operations and renewable generation—including wind, solar, hydroelectric and biogas—and implementation of energy efficiency measures. Over the past 5 years, they have achieved a reduction of over 10% or a total of 18M kWh. Recently, MWRA entered into a memorandum of agreement with Eversource to identify and implement energy efficiency opportunities throughout MWRA's day-to-day operations and construction programs, and also to achieve higher rebates from the utility for implementing energy efficiency projects. MWRA also calls out Environmental Sustainability as a key strategic priority in their Five-Year Strategic Business Plan for FY 2016–2020. These initiatives include continuing to audit all facilities on their regular audit schedule, optimization of processes, cost effective renewable energy deployments, continued maximization of GHG reductions and fully leveraging all available utility rebates and incentives for energy efficiency. Finally, MWRA self-generates approximately 33 million kWh/year from methane capture at the Deer Island wastewater treatment plant.

Green Stormwater Infrastructure

Boston Water and Sewer Commission issued a Stormwater Best Management Practices Implementation Plan, with distinct recommendations and references to Green Infrastructure Demonstration projects including City Hall Plaza and Central Square in East Boston. In addition, BWSC is in the process of drafting a Green Infrastructure plan for stormwater runoff, which should be released within the next year.

Under BWSC’s site plan requirements, developers designing new development and re-development projects must fully investigate methods for retaining or infiltrating stormwater on-site before the commission will consider a plan to discharge stormwater to its system. The commission’s 2015–2017 capital improvement program includes $1,350,000 to install stormwater BMPs and green infrastructure components in three areas of the city.

The City of Boston also requires that almost all new or major renovation projects within the district include groundwater recharge (see, Groundwater Conservation Overlay District (GCOD)). Working with the BWSC, a project must demonstrate the required amount of recharge capacity, how much recharge is being provided, and locations of the supply and overflow lines along with any connections to BWSC lines. Typically, all projects must be able to recharge the first inch of rain.

Last Updated: January 2017

Transportation
Score: 19.5 out of 28 points
Transportation Summary List All

The transportation authority serving the City of Boston is the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, a state agency. MBTA also provides the public transportation for the city and the broader metropolitan area, including train, bus, light rail, and ferry service. The Boston Region Metro Planning Organization is the MPO in charge of conducting metropolitan transportation planning. Its area of jurisdiction encompasses Boston, and many surrounding cities and towns. The Boston Transportation Department is the city agency charged with managing the city’s transportation network. 

Last updated: January 2017

Location Efficiency List All

Articles 87 and 87a of Boston’s zoning code includes smart growth overlays to promote compact, mixed-use communities in specific neighborhoods. Boston has one or more neighborhoods with 0.5 required parking spaces. In downtown districts, “parking freezes” go into effect. Article 37 of the zoning code also encourages buildings subject to Large Project Review to integrate transportation demand management measures. The city encourages dense mixed-use development through density bonuses for greener buildings, affordable housing, and transit oriented development by way of Article 80

Last updated: January 2017

Mode Shift List All

Modal Share Targets

To improve integration of transportation and land use planning, Boston included a VMT reduction goal into its Climate Action Plan of 7.5% below 2010 levels by 2020. However, this target has not been codified through formal adoption. Targeted policies that will be used to achieve this goal include the implementation of complete streets policies, expanding and maintaining public transit facilities, mode shift, and parking freezes.

Car and Bicycle Sharing

There are two car sharing programs currently available to the residents and visitors of Boston, Enterprise Carshare, and zipcar. The city is served by a bikesharing program, Hubway, which has over 160 operable bike stations with approximately 1600 bicycles in total.

Complete Street

Boston adopted its Complete Streets Guidelines in 2009. The adoption of the guidelines encourages the inclusion of complete streets principles in all road construction and maintenance projects.

Last updated: January 2017

Transit List All

The MBTA transit system that serves Boston received $2,494,907,323 in total funding in 2015. This funding level is $372.77 per resident in the service territory of the agency. This results in a ratio of per capita regional transit funding to per capita city highway and parking funding of 4.36 to 1.

The Transit Connectivity Index measures transit service levels. It is based on the number of bus routes and train stations within walking distance for households scaled by frequency of service. The City of Boston’s Transit Connectivity Index value is 31, putting it in the second highest category (30-39) available in the City Scorecard.

Last updated: January 2017

Efficient VehiclesList All

At this time, the City of Boston does not offer incentives to purchase hybrid, plug-in, or EV vehicles. However, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) provides the Massachusetts Electric Vehicle Incentive Program (MassEVIP) Workplace Charging, which is an open grant program that provides incentives to employers for the acquisition of Level 1 and Level 2 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. Additionally, the Transportation Access Plan Agreements requires that all new commercial and residential buildings include stipulations that 5% of parking in must have an EV charging station. oreover, the city owns 72EV charging stations that are available for public use. 

Last updated: January 2017

Freight List All

Sustainable freight plan

Boston does not have a sustainable freight transportation plan in place nor does it have any policies that address freight efficiency.

Smart freight

Boston does not employ an internet-based app or service to coordinate freight transport, however, Boston Transportation Department is exploring this and other potential ways to improve transportation efficiency.

Last updated: January 2017

Sustainable Transportation Planning List All

As part of the city’s GoBoston plan, the city has set goals for a 5.5% reduction in per capita VMTs below 2005 by 2020, a 25% reduction in transportation greenhouse gas emissions, and to adopt a zero emission fleet by 2020.

Last updated: January 2017

Low-Income in Transit-Oriented Development Areas List All

Boston has an Inclusionary Development Policy (IDP) to preserve access to affordable housing opportunities in transit-served areas in all of Boston’s neighborhoods. Developers may include affordable units within their developments, create affordable housing in an off-site location, or make a cash contribution towards the creation or preservation of affordable housing. Boston also has site-specific transit-oriented development for mixed-income housing with built-in higher sustainability requirements. This is part of E+, which builds upon Boston’s Article 37 Green Building Zoning and the city’s Green Affordable Housing Guidelines.

Last updated: January 2017