With election season just around the corner, environmental advocates and local leaders gathered at the Dr. John W. Coleman Greenergy solar park 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 re-power 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,” says 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 Greenergy Solar Park, which was built in 1981 as part of an initiative by
President Carter, it is the only installation from that period that is still operating. Since that
time, the park has added a wind turbine, and still provides energy for the adjacent Beverly High
Fred Hopps, the director of the Coleman Greenergy Park, says, “Since 1981 the Photovoltaic site in the City of Beverly, known as Dr. John Coleman Greenergy Park, has been an historic technological monument to the durability and effectiveness of solar energy. Recently Beverly was one of the first cities to endorse the Pathway to 100% Clean Energy. The first step towards that goal is to develop as much solar capacity as possible. Renovating and upgrading Greenergy Park will continue the legacy as a beacon for the future of solar power.”
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.
Last night, with just over 24 hours remaining in the legislative session, House and Senate negotiators agreed on compromise language for a clean energy bill. While the legislation takes some positive steps to increase clean energy, it falls short in other areas. In particular, it does not address caps on solar energy that are already holding back solar energy in more than 200 communities.
Jeff Cohen, a representative from Salem’s Sustainability, Energy and Resiliency Committee says, “Salem has been a clean energy leader, exemplified in our 100% Renewable Energy resolution, municipal aggregation program, and municipal solar investments. With all of this action, we know we need to work with our neighboring communities and we need statewide action to achieve a goal which is imperative for our environment, public health and our economy.”
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.
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.
“In Gloucester, the wind has always powered our economy. Historically, this was in the sails of fishing vessels, and now it serves as a source of energy for our town’s three wind turbines,” says Dick Prouty, of Town Green 2025. “Wind energy, and other renewable energy sources are the future for this state, and we are proud that Gloucester is a leader in this transition.”
Earlier this month, 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,” says Hellerstein. “The legislation under debate today moves us in the right direction, but we need to go much further. Come January, we’re ready to work with whoever occupies the corner office on Beacon Hill to help Massachusetts go 100 percent renewable.”