Senate advances bill for 100% renewable electricity by 2047

I’m proud to report some major progress on our campaign for 100 percent renewable energy: Last week, the Massachusetts Senate approved a bill that would transition Massachusetts to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2047.

Ben Hellerstein

Former State Director, Environment Massachusetts

I’m proud to report some major progress on our campaign for 100 percent renewable energy: Last week, the Massachusetts Senate approved a bill that would transition Massachusetts to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2047.

This legislation would:

  • Increase the renewable portfolio standard (RPS), the requirement for utilities to buy a minimum percentage of their electricity from renewable sources, by 3 percent per year to reach 100 percent renewable electricity by 2047.
  • Eliminate arbitrary caps on net metering, the state’s most important solar program, to enable more families and businesses to switch to solar.
  • Allow additional procurements of offshore wind energy up to 5,000 megawatts (enough to generate about 45 percent of Massachusetts’ electricity from offshore wind).
  • Set a goal for 25 percent of vehicles in Massachusetts to be electric vehicles by 2028, and create a plan to run MBTA buses and trains on electric power.
  • Install 2,000 megawatts of energy storage in Massachusetts by 2030.
  • Set interim carbon emissions targets for 2030 and 2040 under the Global Warming Solutions Act.
  • Establish a price on carbon emissions from transportation and buildings.

While the goals set out in this legislation are somewhat different from what we’ve advocated for under the 100% Renewable Energy Act, this bill would represent major progress toward a world where all of the energy to power our lives comes from clean, pollution-free, limitless resources.

The bill passed by a unanimous, bipartisan vote of 35-0. Thanks and congratulations are due to the legislators whose leadership helped make this possible, including Senator Marc Pacheco, Senator Michael Barrett, Senator Karen Spilka, Senate President Harriette Chandler, and Senator Jamie Eldridge, who has been a staunch champion for 100 percent renewable energy from the beginning.

Advancing a bill as comprehensive as this one is always a team effort, and we’re grateful for the partnership of so many environmental and business organizations in moving this legislation forward.

Since the beginning of the legislative session in January 2017, Environment Massachusetts has worked with thousands of civic leaders and ordinary citizens to envision a 100 percent renewable future for Massachusetts. Some of the highlights include:

Legislative advocacy: We worked with Senator Jamie Eldridge, Representative Sean Garballey, and Representative Marjorie Decker to file the 100% Renewable Energy Act, which was cosponsored by 56 representatives and senators. Since then, we’ve brought dozens of constituents to the State House to lobby their elected officials in support of 100 percent renewable energy. In March, we partnered with Sen. Eldridge, Rep. Garballey, and Rep. Decker to organize a legislative briefing about major businesses that are leading the way to 100 percent renewable energy, featuring executives from Sustainability Roundtable and Akamai.

Research: Our reports have documented the rapid growth in solar and wind power, and the health and environmental benefits resulting from a transition to renewable energy. In Wind Power to Spare, we showed that Massachusetts’ offshore wind potential is equivalent to more than 19 times the state’s annual electricity consumption. In Our Health At Risk, we found that the Boston area experienced 92 days with unhealthy levels of air pollution in 2015, thanks in large part to our dependence on dirty energy.

100% Renewable Energy Summits: We convened more than 250 civic and business leaders to strategize for a transition to 100 percent renewable energy. Working together with local partners in the Berkshires, the Pioneer Valley, Central Massachusetts, the North Shore, and the Cape & Islands, we organized five 100% Renewable Energy Summits to educate local leaders about our clean energy potential and develop a shared vision for a clean, renewable future.

Civic leaders: We worked with 73 businesses and community leaders, 41 environmental and clean energy organizations, and 21 energy experts to send letters urging legislative leaders to support a statewide commitment to 100 percent renewable energy.

100% renewable cities and towns:Working with our partners in Mass Power Forward, we have helped convince seven cities and towns to commit to a goal of 100 percent renewable energy so far. We’ve developed a toolkit to help activists implement clean energy policies in their communities, and we organized a webinarto share resources developed by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council and Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships.

100% renewable campuses: Together with MASSPIRG Students, we’re advocating for colleges and universities to go 100 percent renewable. This year, our organizers worked with students and faculty members on 20 campuses to campaign for clean energy commitments. In December, Massachusetts’ largest institution of higher education, Boston University, pledged to purchase 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by the end of 2018.

Sox Go Green: We launched our Sox Go Green campaign in April, asking the Red Sox to commit to 100 percent renewable energy. We’ll work to convince other sports teams and cultural institutions to make a similar commitment.

Traditional media: We’ve partnered with leaders like Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, former Cambridge Mayor Denise Simmons, and the executive director of the Salem Chamber of Commerce to publish op-eds calling for a statewide transition to 100 percent renewable energy. In total, though our efforts, we’ve generated more than 100 stories in newspapers and on TV and radio stations.

Social media: In January, we organized the #Go100MA week of action. More than 700 people posted on Facebook and Twitter, sharing why they want to see Massachusetts powered with 100 percent renewable energy.

What’s next?

Now that the Senate has passed their bill, it’s up to the House to act. Time is running out. Legislators must act before midnight on July 31, or else we’ll have to start over from scratch next year.

We can’t afford to let another year or two pass by before we go big on clean energy. If we want to ensure a safe, healthy planet for our children, we need to act now.

Here’s one thing you can do today: email your legislators and ask them to eliminate the caps on solar power.

We’re rolling out a plan to get this bill over the finish line before July 31, and we’ll let you know how you can get involved!


Ben Hellerstein

Former State Director, Environment Massachusetts