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Ben Hellerstein,
Environment Massachusetts

Days after major energy vote, report highlights local action towards 100 percent renewable energy

For Immediate Release

Boston – Civic and business leaders gathered today to release a report highlighting cities and towns leading the way towards 100 percent renewable energy.

The report comes just days after legislators voted to bring offshore wind energy to Massachusetts. Speakers at the event praised the Legislature’s move, but called for more ambitious action to achieve 100 percent renewable energy for Massachusetts.

“The best ideas for clean energy often start at the local level,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director for the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center. “To protect our communities and avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we must move as quickly as possible to expand clean energy. Local and state leaders should go all in on 100 percent renewable energy for Massachusetts.”

Renewable Communities, a report from the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center, includes profiles of Cambridge, Melrose, Boston, Auburn, Holyoke, and 12 other Massachusetts cities and towns that are adopting far-reaching clean energy and energy efficiency programs.

“In 2015, a task force representing residents, businesses, and institutions developed a plan to set Cambridge on the path to carbon neutrality,” said Susanne Rasmussen, Director of Environmental and Transportation Planning for the City of Cambridge. “The success of the plan relies not only on strategies to improve building energy efficiency but also on significantly increasing the availability of clean energy to power our schools, businesses and homes. It is imperative that the availability of clean affordable energy continues to expand.”

Renewable Communities presents findings from a survey of 191 Massachusetts communities about their renewable energy practices. Of the cities and towns that responded to the survey:

  • 42.9 percent have installed solar panels on at least one municipal building or property.
  • 88.0 percent have completed an energy audit, and more than two-thirds have taken steps like replacing old lighting fixtures with high-efficiency fluorescent or LED fixtures, installing high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment, and installing occupancy sensors to automatically turn lights on and off as needed.
  • 20.4 percent have installed electric vehicle charging stations that are open to the public, and 31.4 percent have adopted pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly policies.

“Clean energy, innovation, and economic growth are all intertwined here in Massachusetts, and aiming for much more renewable energy allows the benefits we see from this connectivity to continue expanding,” said Tedd Saunders, President of EcoLogical Solutions, Inc., Chief Sustainability Officer of the Saunders Hotel Group, and a member of the Alliance for Business Leadership. “Having business leaders invest in clean energy — and the innovation around it — helps reduce our impact on climate-fueled extreme weather, lower energy costs, and create good paying, local jobs.”

Just minutes before the end of the legislative session on Monday morning, the House and Senate passed an energy bill requiring at least 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind power in Massachusetts by 2027.

The bill was silent on many other key energy issues, including solar energy, electric vehicles, and controversial gas pipeline projects. The final legislation also omitted a proposal from Senate leaders to double the annual rate of growth of renewable energy. The bill now awaits Governor Charlie Baker’s signature before becoming law.

“Going 100 percent renewable is no longer a pipe dream of environmentalists but a commercially viable alternative,” said Dr. Sanjeev Mukerjee, Director of the Northeastern University Center for Renewable Energy Technology. “In some locations, solar and wind are already cheaper than coal-based thermal power, the latter being the bedrock of legacy utilities. 100 percent renewables need policy changes, new thinking and most importantly energy storage solutions”.

Officials from Massachusetts and eight other northeastern states are weighing changes to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a program that limits carbon emissions from power plants across the region and provides funding for energy efficiency and clean energy efforts. Advocates are pushing for a tighter cap of 40 million tons of carbon dioxide by 2030, which would encourage a more rapid transition to clean energy.

Additionally, in June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed its Clean Energy Incentive Program. The program is designed to help states meet their carbon reduction goals under the Clean Power Plan, by encouraging investment in clean energy sources and reducing barriers to access for energy efficiency and solar energy in low-income communities.

"As MCAN works with chapters across the Commonwealth, we hear consistently that clean energy is saving cities and towns money and helping them achieve their climate and environmental goals," said Carol Oldham, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Climate Action Network. “100 percent renewable energy is not only good for cities and towns, it is good for us all.”

The report recommends that state leaders adopt a goal of 100 percent renewable energy for Massachusetts, and support local renewable energy efforts by strengthening initiatives like the Green Communities program and the stretch energy code.

“Local communities understand the urgency of moving towards 100 percent renewable energy,” said Hellerstein. “The question is, do state leaders understand it, too?”

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The Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center is dedicated to protecting Massachusetts’ air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help Bay Staters make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives.