Clean energy progress — and more work to do

Yesterday, just hours before the end of the 2017–2018 session, the House and Senate approved legislation to increase renewable energy in Massachusetts.

Ben Hellerstein

Former State Director, Environment Massachusetts

We visited Dismas House in Worcester to release our 100% Renewable Energy Agenda and talk about the benefits that clean energy is bringing to local nonprofits and businesses, alongside leaders from the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce and Worcester Common Ground.

Yesterday, just hours before the end of the 2017–2018 session, the House and Senate approved legislation to increase renewable energy in Massachusetts.

This bill is an important step toward cleaner air, healthier communities, and a safer future for our children.

If signed by Governor Baker, this legislation will:

  • Increase the portion of Massachusetts’ electricity from renewable resources like solar and wind to 35 percent in 2030 (up from 13 percent today).
  • Allow additional procurements of offshore wind up to 1,600 megawatts, which would double Massachusetts’ current offshore wind commitment.
  • Set an energy storage target of 1,000 megawatt-hours by 2025.
  • Allow the use of energy efficiency funds for energy storage and renewable heating, two key components of a 100 percent renewable future.
  • Prohibit some types of arbitrary demand charges for solar owners.

This legislation will move us forward on clean energy, but we have more work ahead of us. In particular, legislators failed to address the caps on solar power, which are already holding back solar projects in more than 200 communities across Massachusetts.

But if I know anything, it’s that progress on clean energy tends to lead to more progress.

Because of this legislation, every day we’ll see more of Massachusetts’ electricity coming from renewable sources, and less harmful pollution in our air and water. We’ll see more wind turbines spinning off our shores, more energy storage systems reducing costly peak demand hours, and more homes heated and cooled with efficient heat pumps. This momentum will help us make the case that we can go much further.

How we’ve made a difference, together

Since launching our campaign for 100 percent renewable energy in 2016, we’ve worked hard to make the case that a future powered entirely by clean energy is possible, while building broad support from the public and from civic leaders across Massachusetts.

We reached a major milestone in June, when the Senate passed a bill for 100 percent renewable electricity by 2050. But it was unclear if the House would act on the legislation at all, or whether both chambers could come to an agreement on significant clean energy policy before the end of the session on July 31.

So we kicked into high gear to get clean energy legislation over the finish line.

We started by mobilizing our network of grassroots supporters, generating hundreds of emails and phone calls urging legislators to go big on clean energy.

We recruited more than 100 civic leaders, organizations, and businesses to sign onto a letter calling for strong clean energy policy. We partnered with community leaders to place op-eds in the Worcester Telegram, Berkshire Eagle, and Fall River Herald News highlighting local progress on clean energy and the need for policy support at the state level.

And we worked with our advisory committee to draft a letter from experts and academics affirming the feasibility of transitioning to 100 percent renewable energy across all sectors, and rebutting some of the arguments put forward by the opposition.

We brought this support with us when we met with legislators and their staff face-to-face. We helped build support for a letter led by Representative Frank Smizik calling for movement on energy legislation, which was ultimately signed by more than 80 House members. We also supported an amendment filed by Representative Kay Khan that would have increased renewable electricity more rapidly.

Finally, we visited every corner of Massachusetts to shine a spotlight on the benefits that clean energy is bringing to communities and generate media coverage supporting ambitious clean energy policies.

We released our Renewables on the Rise report at press conferences in Springfield, Fall River, Lowell, Framingham, Quincy, and Boston. We stood with leaders like Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, Lowell Mayor William Samaras, and South Coast Chamber of Commerce President Rich Kidder to talk about the rapid growth in clean energy technologies over the past decade and the potential to go much further.

Then, we visited 9 communities to share our 100% Renewable Energy Agenda, an ambitious policy roadmap to accelerate Massachusetts’ clean energy progress across all sectors.

In Fall River, we toured the Sbrega Building on the Bristol Community College campus, the first net zero energy academic lab building in the northeast. In Leominster, we visited the Center for Technical Education Innovation, where students are trained in solar, renewable heating, and other clean energy technologies. In Pittsfield, we saw the site of a proposed downtown microgrid linking critical facilities with solar and energy storage.

In total, our efforts resulted in more than 30 stories in newspapers and on TV and radio stations in the critical weeks before clean energy legislation came to a vote.

What’s next?

We’re already looking ahead to January and the start of the next legislative session. Our goal is to put Massachusetts on a path to 100 percent renewable energy, and we won’t stop until we achieve it.

For Massachusetts to remain at the forefront of the clean energy transition, we need to set big goals and we need to follow through with concrete action. Our health and our children’s future demand nothing less.

I’d encourage you to take a look at our 100% Renewable Energy Agenda, which lays out dozens of recommendations for the winner of this fall’s gubernatorial election to make Massachusetts a clean energy leader across all sectors. In the coming months, we’ll lay the groundwork to go big on clean energy in January and beyond.


Ben Hellerstein

Former State Director, Environment Massachusetts