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Wu unveils new programs to reduce carbon emissions

Mayor Michelle Wu leaned forward to listen to a question at a press conference held to announce a new renewable energy pilot program in East Boston that will help residents install solar panels.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

As part of Boston’s effort to reduce its carbon emissions, Mayor Michelle Wu on Monday launched new initiatives to increase residents’ energy efficiency and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.

At a news conference in East Boston, Wu announced a pilot project that aims to boost the use of solar panels in the neighborhood’s triple-deckers and other homes. She also announced that East Boston, Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan have been selected for a state program that provides benefits to help reduce energy bills.

“These partnerships embody our commitment to investing in environmental justice and energy democracy,” Wu said.

The new programs follow the passage of a landmark ordinance last year that requires the city’s large buildings to make major cuts to emissions. Those buildings account for 60 percent of Boston’s building emissions, which are responsible for about two-thirds of all the city’s carbon emissions.


The new initiatives also follow the launch of similar federally funded programs Wu announced last month that will invest $20 million to boost energy efficiency in the city’s multifamily homes and another $33 million to improve air quality, increase energy efficiency, and make other upgrades in public housing.

Wu said one of the new programs she announced seeks to make solar power more attractive to residents of East Boston, where the median income is about $53,000. The program includes a 15 percent discount below the average cost of solar, as well as a no-cost option for those with lower incomes. The city aims to sign up about 50 homes in the neighborhood by the end of the year.

Wu said the other program aims to boost awareness in underserved city neighborhoods about the benefits of Mass Save, the state’s energy efficiency program. That program allows homeowners and renters to receive a free energy assessment that seeks to identify how they could reduce their energy costs. It also provides residents with programmable thermostats, water-saving devices, insulation, and discounts on new heating and cooling systems.


At the news conference, the Rev. Mariama White-Hammond, the city’s environment chief, said the programs were vital to promoting environmental justice.

“Environmental justice means we need to ask hard questions about who is asked to carry the burden and who receives the benefits,” she said. “These kinds of partnerships allow us to bring energy benefits to environmental justice communities while helping us achieve our collective goal of decarbonization.”

The programs are to be promoted by a local environmental advocacy group, GreenRoots.

“For too long, immigrants and people of color have been left out of the solar economy,” said John Walkey, director of waterfront and climate initiatives at GreenRoots. “They must be centered in our energy democracy efforts.”

David Abel can be reached at david.abel@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @davabel.