With election season just around the corner, environmental advocates and local leaders gathered at the Hitchcock Center for the Environment to share ideas for accelerating Massachusetts’ transition to 100 percent renewable energy.
The 100% Renewable Energy Agenda, developed by the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center, includes more than 30 policies that the winner of this fall’s gubernatorial election can implement to reduce energy consumption and rapidly repower all sectors of the economy with clean energy.
“For decades, the Commonwealth has led the nation in preserving the environment, protecting public health, and reducing global warming pollution,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director for the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center. “Now more than ever, Massachusetts must lead the way. With support from our state’s top leaders, we can power our homes, our businesses, and our transportation system with clean, renewable energy.”
Advocates described how Massachusetts’ solar and wind resources, combined with emerging technologies like electric vehicles, air source heat pumps, and battery storage, will enable us to meet our energy needs with clean, renewable power at all times of the day and night.
After discussing the recommendations in the 100% Renewable Energy Agenda, local leaders took a tour of the Unitarian Church of Barnstable. The Church, located along the largest historic district in the nation, with 27 320-watt solar panels proudly installed, is a model of how to
balance tradition with forward-thinking.
Sheila Place, a leader in the Church’s Green Sanctuary Committee, said, “ Living on Cape Cod is having a front row seat for climate change. We must move away from fossil fuels, a known contribution to accelerating warming. We’re proud that the Unitarian Church of Barnstable is
doing its part.”
Speakers also pointed to the urgent need for action before the end of the legislative session.
In June, the Massachusetts Senate passed a bill that would eliminate caps on solar net metering and increase renewable energy to 50 percent of Massachusetts’ electricity consumption by 2030 and 100 percent by 2047. The House has passed a bill for 35 percent renewable electricity by 2030. Legislators must reach an agreement before July 31, or start from scratch next year. A report by the Applied Economics Clinic found that increasing the renewable portfolio standard by 3 percent per year, along with other clean energy policies, would result in 600,000 fewer metric tons of greenhouse gases per year by 2030 (equivalent to taking 128,000 cars off the road) at little to no additional cost to the public.
“Local efforts, such as community choice aggregation, is a key tool to help us all address the climate crisis,” said Maggie Downey of the Cape Light Compact, which transitioned its entire aggregated power supply to 100% renewable energy. “But it’s equally important that our state
officials pass legislation that encourages and supports the transition to renewables.”
Since 2007, Massachusetts has seen a 246-fold increase in the amount of electricity it gets from the sun. Wind energy generation in Massachusetts is set to increase dramatically in the coming years, with a commitment to install 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind capacity.
Massachusetts’ offshore wind potential is equivalent to more than 19 times the state’s annual electricity consumption. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, rooftop solar installations alone could provide 47 percent of Massachusetts’ electricity.
“Vineyard Wind is working hard to ensure that Massachusetts creates new economic development opportunities and delivers clean energy while enhancing energy security and reliability,” said Richard Andre, president of the non-profit, Vineyard Power. “Vineyard Power is proud to work with Vineyard Wind to help spread the benefits of renewable energy to local communities through their Affordability and Resiliency Fund that will deliver significant and on-going benefits to these communities These combined goals should be a priority across the state.”
Last week, 16 academics, researchers, and clean energy industry leaders sent a letter to state officials affirming that “there are no insurmountable technological or economic barriers to achieving 100 percent renewable energy.”
“Now is the time for us to go big on clean energy,” said Hellerstein. “Come January, we’re ready to work with whoever occupies the corner office on Beacon Hill to help Massachusetts go 100 percent renewable.”