Guest Opinion

Boston faces some of the highest electricity prices in the nation, and in January, rates increased by 29 percent. This puts many Boston residents in a very tough spot, in particular, those residents who heat with electricity. While the City does not have control over these prices, we are using every lever we can to help ease this burden and better manage our energy in the long-term. Over the next month, I encourage you to take advantage of new energy saving incentives from Renew Boston, explore utility discounts, and attend our workshop to help tenants and landlords of multi-family buildings work together to save money and energy.

For a limited time only, Renew Boston, in partnership with Mass Saves and NSTAR, are providing steep discounts on energy-saving lightbulbs, power strips, and shower heads. Through this special offer, Boston residents can get four LED lightbulbs, a smart power strip and a low-flow shower head for just $15—a retail value of $75. Taking small steps to conserve energy such as changing your lightbulbs, turning off lights when not in the room, and turning down your thermostat just a few degrees, can add up to big savings throughout the year. You can order your efficiency kit online at

The City is also working will all utilities to provide assistance to those who need it most. As I mentioned in my State of the City Address, the Boston Water and Sewer Commission will increase the water discount for all senior and disabled homeowners to 30 percent. And I have asked all other utilities to do the same.

Many residents already qualify for discounts on their energy bills through programs administered by Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD). Eligibility depends on your household size and income. If you receive any form of public assistance such as SNAP, TANF, SSA/SSI, or Veteran’s Benefits, you automatically qualify. Savings are substantial and could even offset the rate increase. Plus, ABCD offers a variety of additional energy and money saving programs for low-income residents, so I encourage you to call at 617-357-6012.

 If you don’t qualify for ABCD’s programs, there are other programs available to help you save money and energy. Renew Boston offers no-cost home energy assessments for any resident in a building with four or fewer units, including renters. Not only will you get free energy saving gadgets, but an Energy Advisor will provide other tips and resources to help you save money. I had my own audit done last spring and I’m already saving money and energy. Plus, my home is now much more comfortable. Sign up online at or by calling 617-635-SAVE.

One of the biggest challenges is reaching residents who live in buildings with five or more units. Whether renters or condo owners, these residents are often unable to make energy efficiency improvements to their buildings, yet they are left footing the energy bill. Renew Boston has a special program that helps coordinate tenants and landlords to provide whole-building energy solutions.

These programs offer near-term solutions to help Bostonians get through this winter and reduce their energy bills. However, we need broader policies and planning that give us more autonomy over our energy in the long-term. TheGreenovate Boston 2014 Climate Action Plan Update, which I released in January, provides actions and strategies that will help Boston do just this. We need more local energy that is green, affordable and resilient. The more energy we can produce locally, the more jobs we can create in Boston and the more control we’ll have over our energy. Energy conservation remains a top priority and one of the most effective things we can do to manage energy both today and tomorrow.

Martin Walsh is Mayor of Boston.

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