State Approves Acton’s Participation in Fossil Fuel Free Building Construction and Renovation Demonstration Project

January 3, 2024

On December 22, 2023, the Town of Acton received approval from the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) approving the Town’s participation in the Municipal Fossil Fuel Free Building Construction and Renovation Demonstration Project. This approval means that beginning March 22, 2024, new buildings and major rehabilitation projects in Acton must use electricity for heating, cooling, hot water and cooking, instead of piping in any fossil fuels (gas, oil, or propane), unless a waiver is provided by the Town.


An image of a Town Meeting Warrant Article
Portion of Acton’s 2023 Town Warrant. Photo credit: Franny Osman.

In 2021, Town Meeting created Chapter AC of Acton’s General Bylaws (“Regulating Fossil Fuel Infrastructure in Buildings”) that laid out the requirements for fossil-fuel free building in Acton, and asked the state legislature to approve it.In response, instead of directly approving the bylaw, the legislature created a demonstration project in 2022 (Section 84 of Chapter 179). The DOER published regulations (225 CMR 24.00) that established a framework, requirements, and timeline for up to ten communities to participate. Acton then passed Article 13 at the 2023 Town Meeting, which amended Article AC to meet the requirements of the state program, and sent in a formal application in August 2023.  

The intent of the program, and Acton’s Chapter AC, is to reduce the amount of climate change-causing greenhouse gas emissions from new buildings, consistent with the Town’s Climate Action Plan of 2022 and Town Meeting’s declaration of a climate emergency in 2020

Waivers can be requested by a developer or builder if an aspect of a proposed project is financially or technologically unfeasible without the use of fossil fuels. Exceptions to the need for a waiver include buildings where the primary use is as a research laboratory for scientific or medical research, or as hospitals or medical offices. Rehabilitation projects that involve less than 50% of the current floor area are also exempt.  The Select Board will be holding hearings for proposed regulations of the waiver process before the bylaw takes effect. 

A related building code change took effect January 1, 2024: the “municipal opt-in specialized code” came into effect, which residents approved at the 2023 Town Meeting. This new code tightens up insulation and air sealing requirements for new buildings, defines different requirements for all-electric versus fossil-fuel construction, and adds requirements related to wiring for electric-vehicle charging. 

Detailed questions about requirements of the new specialized code and the fossil-fuel free program may be directed to the Town’s Building Department at Town Hall or by email at

Jim Snyder-Grant is a member of the Acton Select Board, the Acton Climate Coalition Steering Committee, and the Green Acton Board of Directors.


Help support the cost of bringing accurate, relevant news to the Acton community.


Sign up to receive a weekly email newsletter providing links to our new articles.


Look here to access all articles in your areas of interest.