Boston – Dozens of the state’s top leaders from the millennial generation came together today to discuss how to transition Massachusetts to a 100 percent renewable energy supply for electricity, heating, and transportation.
“As millennials, the way our society produces and consumes energy will affect our lives for decades to come,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director for the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center. “The good news is that we have the power to do something about it. Millennials are showing that a future powered entirely by renewable energy is attainable.”
Dozens of state and local officials, entrepreneurs, architects, researchers, and nonprofit leaders from the millennial generation — roughly, people in their 20s and 30s — gathered at Boston University’s BUild Lab to share their work to increase renewable energy adoption and identify opportunities for collaboration.
"The most urgent issue of our generation is how to secure a more sustainable and just future by connecting to climate action,” said Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu, co-chair of the planning committee for the summit. “Setting bold plans for a quick transition to 100 percent renewable energy which will also advance efforts to reduce income inequity and eliminate poverty."
“This is the most critical issue of our time, especially for millennials, since we are the ones who will have to breathe the air and drink the water in 30, 40, 50 years,” said Senator Eric Lesser (Longmeadow), co-chair of the planning committee for the summit. “The window of time when we can actually do something to prevent the disastrous effects of fossil fuels is closing rapidly, so this is an all-hands-on-deck situation. Summits like these that bring together policymakers, energy experts and advocates are important for finding solutions and building the momentum we need to make change.”
Speakers at the event included:
- Patrick Knight from Synapse Energy Economics, who discussed potential pathways to an electric grid powered by 100 percent renewable energy, from sources like the sun and the wind.
- Chris Dempsey from Transportation for Massachusetts and Matt Casale from MASSPIRG, who discussed the technologies and ideas enabling a zero-carbon transportation system powered by renewable energy, including electric vehicles, expanded transit options, and better infrastructure for walking and biking.
- Jen Taylor from Stantec Architecture, who discussed her firm’s design for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Research Support Facility in Colorado, the world’s first net zero energy building of its kind.
- Morganne McGuirk from MASSPIRG Students, who shared her organization’s work to convince colleges and universities to power their campuses with 100 percent renewable energy.
"Transportation is the number one source of air pollution of any sector in our state's economy and contributes to over 40 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts,” said Chris Dempsey, Director of Transportation for Massachusetts. “Our generation must embrace cleaner transportation options — like walking, biking, public transit, and electric vehicles powered by renewable energy — to pave the way for a 100 percent renewable energy future."
"It is the responsibility of all generations to create a 100 percent renewable future, but millennials approach the fight for our energy future with a special fervor,” said Jesse Mermell, President of the Alliance for Business Leadership. “Convenings like this summit allow rising and current leaders to build expertise, share innovative ideas, develop vital connections, and accelerate our progress toward a clean tomorrow."
The summit concluded with a presentation by Hawaii State Representative Chris Lee. Representative Lee was the lead sponsor of legislation, passed in 2015, which made Hawaii the first state in the nation to commit to 100 percent renewable electricity.
"After passing Hawaii's 100 percent renewable energy mandate, public and private sector partners came together and our utilities are now on track to achieve 100 percent clean electricity by 2040 while saving over $5 billion compared to sticking with status quo fossil fuels,” said Hawaii State Representative Chris Lee.
In 2017, Representative Sean Garballey (a millennial), Representative Marjorie Decker, and Senator Jamie Eldridge filed the 100% Renewable Energy Act, a bill to transition Massachusetts to 100 percent renewable energy economy-wide by 2050.
The BUild Lab is home to Innovate@BU, a program that equips Boston University students with the skills of innovation and entrepreneurship. The BUild Lab has helped students launch several projects and companies related to renewable energy.
“Our health, our climate, and our future depend on getting off of fossil fuels as quickly as possible,” said Hellerstein. “As millennials, we have the vision, the skills, and the drive to make 100 percent renewable energy a reality.”
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.