Experts say 100 percent renewable energy within reach for Massachusetts

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Jacqueline Meyncke Risch

Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center

Boston – Massachusetts and the nation can move quickly to supply 100 percent of our energy from clean, renewable resources like solar and wind, according to a panel of researchers and experts who spoke at Old South Church last night to an audience of over 200 people.

“America needs to shift to 100 percent renewable energy to address our largest environmental challenges,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director for the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center. “At a time of great uncertainty over our national climate and energy policy, it’s more important than ever before for Massachusetts to lead the way towards 100 percent renewable energy. Now is the time for bold action, not half steps.”

“As a technological giant, the United States must continue to lead the clean energy revolution,” said Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) in a written statement. “The question is no longer if we can power our country with 100 percent renewable energy, it’s when and how we will make the transition. With wind and solar energy costs dropping and our commitments in Massachusetts and across the country, we can and will meet this goal. Now, more than ever, it is critical that we stand up and fight for our clean energy future. That is why I will be introducing a resolution to set out the goal of generating 100 percent renewable energy by the year 2050.”

Experts in the fields of public health, urban sustainability, renewable energy technology, and the electric utility sector spoke at The Road to 100 Percent: Opportunities and challenges in the transition to a fully renewable energy society, a town hall event organized by the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center and co-sponsored by several other environmental and health organizations.

The discussion is one of more than 50 events held across the country this week for the 100% Committed, 100% Renewable Week of Action. The week of action is sponsored by Environment America, the national partner of Environment Massachusetts, as well as the Climate Reality Project, the Student PIRGs, and other organizations.

“The road to 100 percent renewable is finally achievable because of a confluence of lower prices for solar and wind and increasingly greater access to all electric transportation” said Dr. Sanjeev Mukerjee, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology at Northeastern University and Faculty Director of the Northeastern University Center for Renewable Energy Technology. “Massachusetts has to make proper policy decisions which incentivize (a) decentralized power, (b) higher subsidies for hybrid and electric vehicles, and (c) higher spending on public transportation. In all of these, energy storage is the key. Massachusetts can set the national clean energy agenda by providing the proper basis for success in this arena.”

“While we often think about averting climate change when we think about renewable energy, getting energy from fossil fuels has many other social costs. Air pollution from fossil-fueled electricity is responsible for around 21,000 deaths each year, and there are other impacts, including water pollution, land disruption, and accidents, to name a few. “ said Dr. Jonathan Buonocore, Program Lead for Climate, Energy, and Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “This means the public health opportunities of transitioning to renewables are immense — if Massachusetts switches to 100 percent renewable electricity it could save 390 lives per year through air quality improvements alone. Research has shown that if these benefits to health and the climate can be higher than the costs of developing renewable energy.”

Earlier this year, the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center released We Have the Power, a report that reviewed seven studies from academics, government agencies and nonprofit organizations showing that there are no insurmountable technological or economic barriers to achieving 100 percent renewable energy.

“We need to fuel the nation with renewable energy. The technology exists, and the benefits go far beyond just reducing carbon,” said Robert Dostis, Vice President of Green Mountain Power. “Energy transformation is an economic driver — creating jobs and fueling a new green economy. Utilities are especially positioned to achieve an energy transformation that reduces costs and carbon while increasing reliability and resilience — a critical focus in light of a changing climate.” 

“We can have healthier communities and a livable future, but we need to transform the way we produce and consume energy,” said Jacqueline Meyncke Risch, campaign organizer for the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center. “That’s why we are calling for local, state, and national commitments to 100 percent renewable energy. The good news is that 100 percent renewable energy is 100 percent possible”.

Advocates argued that one of the ways Massachusetts can accelerate the transition to 100 percent renewable energy is by strengthening the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a program that limits carbon pollution from power plants in Massachusetts and eight other northeastern states. Environment Massachusetts is urging Governor Charlie Baker to double the pace of clean energy progress under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. 

Already, major corporations such as Google, Facebook, and Johnson and Johnson have committed to 100 percent renewable energy goals. San Diego, Aspen, Colo., and Greensburg, Kan., are among the cities that have also pledged to achieve 100 percent renewable energy. Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., will soon become the first residential college in the United States to obtain 100 percent of its electricity from on-campus solar installations.

This summer, the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center profiled 17 cities and towns in Massachusetts that are leading the way towards 100 percent renewable energy.

The Road to 100 Percent was presented by the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center, in partnership with the following organizations:

  • Lead sponsors: Toxics Action Center, Clean Water Action, MassSolar, Climate Action Now, Boston Climate Action Network, Mass Energy Consumers Alliance 
  • Cosponsors: Alliance for Climate Education, Berkshire Environmental Action Team, Health Care Without Harm, Sierra Club Greater Boston Group, Environmental League of Massachusetts

“When it comes to climate change, we can’t afford to sit on our hands, and we certainly can’t afford several years of backsliding,” said Hellerstein. “The rest of the nation, and indeed the world, is counting on Massachusetts to lead the way towards 100 percent renewable energy. All of us — citizens, business leaders, and officials on all levels — need to do everything we can to keep moving in the right direction.”


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.