BOSTON — As Governor-Elect Charlie Baker prepares to take office, Environment Massachusetts released a letter signed by more than 340 local officials from 135 towns and cities across Massachusetts, calling on the new governor and his administration to champion the growth of solar energy.
The letter asks Governor-Elect Baker to set a goal of getting 20% of Massachusetts’ electricity from the sun by 2025, and speaks to the environmental and economic benefits that the rapidly growing solar industry has already brought to communities across the state.
“All across the state, solar energy is helping communities fight global warming and cut harmful air pollution, while providing a boost to the local economy,” said Ben Hellerstein, campaign organizer for Environment Massachusetts. “Solar is growing rapidly, but there’s so much more that we can do. Today, local officials are asking Governor-Elect Baker to take solar to the next level, by committing to a goal of 20% solar by 2025.”
Over the last three years, solar energy has grown by an average of 127% per year in Massachusetts. According to a recent Environment Massachusetts report, Star Power: The Growing Role of Solar Energy in Massachusetts, Massachusetts has the technical potential to generate twice as much electricity from solar as the entire state consumes each year, and there are more than 700,000 rooftops in the state that could host solar panels.
Virtually every community in Massachusetts now hosts at least one solar project. Massachusetts has more solar installed on K-12 school buildings than all but three other states. Solar installations have also cropped up on capped landfills, municipal office buildings, and other city- and town-owned properties.
“Cambridge is proving that solar energy is for everyone,” said Rich Rossi, City Manager for the City of Cambridge. “Through the Cambridge Energy Alliance, we’ve made solar power accessible to residents of all income levels and backgrounds, as well as businesses and nonprofits. And because we believe that local government should lead by example, we’ve installed solar panels on several of our municipal buildings and continue to look for more opportunities to add to municipal solar installations.”
The letter includes signers from 18 of the 20 largest cities and towns in Massachusetts by population, including Mayor Domenic J. Sarno of Springfield, Mayor Michael McGlynn of Medford, Mayor David P. Maher of Cambridge, and Mayor Jonathan F. Mitchell of New Bedford. Eight members of the Boston City Council and all nine members of the Cambridge City Council signed the letter.
All 14 of Massachusetts’ counties are represented on the letter, including officials from many smaller towns throughout the state. Dighton, Kingston, Manchester, Marion, Mashpee, and Wales are among 41 towns whose Boards of Selectmen voted as a whole to endorse the letter.
“Solar energy is a smart way for Massachusetts to reduce the carbon emissions that cause global warming, while protecting consumers from the rising cost of fossil fuels,” said Joel Wool, Clean Energy Organizer with Clean Water Action. “Towns and cities across the state are eager to take solar to the next level, but it will take continued support from Governor-Elect Baker and other state leaders to make it happen.”
The letter points to the environmental and economic benefits of going solar. Already, the solar industry supports more than 12,000 jobs in Massachusetts, according to a recent study from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.
In Massachusetts, state policies and programs — including net metering, the SREC or “solar carve-out” program, and Solarize Mass — have supported the rapid expansion of solar energy. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Energy Resources have worked with communities across the state to bring solar installations to homes, businesses, affordable housing developments, capped landfills, schools, and other public buildings.
In July, the Legislature passed a bill that provided for a temporary expansion of Massachusetts’ successful net metering program, but did not resolve questions over the long-term future of the program. The legislation established a Net Metering and Solar Task Force, and directed the task force to review the state’s solar policies and make recommendations for how to promote the continued expansion of solar energy.
The first task force meeting took place on November 13, and the task force’s final recommendations to the legislature are due on March 31, 2015.
“By setting a goal of 20% solar by 2025, Governor-Elect Baker can step up as a national leader on clean energy and support thousands of Massachusetts jobs,” said Hellerstein. “Hundreds of local officials agree: the benefits to our environment and our economy are too good to pass up.”