Boston – As state leaders consider major changes to Massachusetts’ energy policies, the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center offered a preview of a new report identifying cities and towns leading the way towards 100 percent renewable energy.
“The best ideas for clean energy often start at the local level,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director for the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center. “For the sake of our environment and our economy, we need to transform the way our society produces and consumes energy. Across Massachusetts, cities and towns are showing that 100 percent renewable energy is within reach.”
The report, Renewable Communities, will feature profiles of Melrose, Boston, Auburn, Holyoke, and 12 other Massachusetts cities and towns that are adopting far-reaching clean energy and energy efficiency programs. It will also include data from a survey of more than 190 Massachusetts communities about their renewable energy practices.
Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center shared a preview of the report today, with the full report set to be released on Thursday, August 4.
“In recent years, Melrose has taken significant steps to reduce our carbon footprint and increase clean energy,” said Martha Grover, Energy Efficiency Manager for Melrose. “For residents, businesses, and the city government, clean energy is playing a growing role in meeting our needs, while helping us to save money.”
Of the 191 cities and towns that responded to the survey:
- 41.8% have installed solar panels on at least one municipal building or property.
- 86.4% have completed an energy audit, and more than two-thirds have taken steps like replacing old lighting fixtures with high-efficiency fluorescent or LED bulbs, installing high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment, and installing occupancy sensors to automatically turn lights on and off as needed.
- 19.9% have installed electric vehicle charging stations that are open to the public, and 29.3% have adopted pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly policies.
The report comes as Massachusetts legislators consider a potentially far-reaching energy bill. The Senate passed a version of the energy bill in late June that would double the rate of growth of clean energy, prohibit spending public money on new gas pipelines, and jumpstart the state’s offshore wind industry. The House also supported offshore wind in its version of the bill, but with a more modest set-aside. House and Senate leaders have until July 31 to come to an agreement on energy legislation.
Additionally, 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. 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.
In June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released a proposal for 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.
“Whether it is the impacts on air quality, public health, vulnerability to fuel price volatility, land-use issues with pipelines, or the threats from climate change fossil fuel dependence has been a real burden on cities and towns. Communities around the commonwealth have been responding by turning toward renewable energy.” said Ben Weil, Assistant Professor for Building and Construction Technology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. “Moving toward 100% renewable energy is not only possible and responsible, it also increasingly pays dividends in cost savings, public health, and economic development. With recent price declines solar, wind, energy storage, and energy efficiency measures feed into a virtuous cycle. We need a complementary policy environment that allows these technologies to compete on a level playing field, backed by a statewide commitment to a 100% renewable energy future.”
“At WrightGrid, we’re working to use clean energy for its mix of social and environmental benefits,” said Ryan Wright, founder of WrightGrid. “Achieving 100 percent renewable energy for Massachusetts would keep more energy dollars within our local communities and create huge opportunities for job growth, while also reducing harmful emissions.”
In the next two weeks, Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center staff members are visiting eight communities across Massachusetts to share the findings of the report.
“Local communities are leading the way on clean energy,” said Hellerstein. “We hope to see state leaders follow their example.”
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.