New study shows a decade of progress positions Massachusetts to take clean energy to the next level

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Ben Hellerstein

Former State Director, Environment Massachusetts

Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center

Boston – Since 2009, Massachusetts has seen a 170-fold growth in the amount of electricity it gets from the sun, according to a new report released today by Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center. The report also highlights advances in the use of energy storage and electric vehicles, and Massachusetts ranked 2nd among the states for improvements in electricity energy efficiency programs.

“Every day, there’s more evidence that a future fueled by renewable energy is within our reach,” said Peter Schneider, Clean Energy Campaign Organizer with Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center. “The progress we’ve made in the last decade on renewable energy and technologies like battery storage and electric cars should give us the confidence that we can take clean energy to the next level.”

The report, Renewables on the Rise: A Decade of Progress Toward a Clean Energy Future, provides a state-by-state assessment of the growth of key technologies needed to power the nation with clean renewable energy, including wind, solar, energy efficiency, energy storage and electric vehicles. Massachusetts ranked 6th among all states for growth in solar energy generation.

Offshore wind is a particularly promising opportunity for Massachusetts. While the first utility-scale offshore wind turbine in the United States was only installed in 2017, state officials in Massachusetts are moving ahead with plans to install up to 3,200 megawatts of offshore wind in the coming years.

The report comes as legislators consider a statewide commitment to 100% renewable energy. The 100% Renewable Energy Act (H.2836, S.1958), filed by Representative Marjorie Decker, Representative Sean Garballey, and Senator Jamie Eldridge, would transition Massachusetts to 100% renewable electricity by 2035, and phase out the use of fossil fuels for heating and transportation by 2045.

So far, 113 legislators have endorsed the 100% Renewable Energy Act. The Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy held a hearing on the bill in July.

“Massachusetts has seen significant progress on clean energy, serving as a national leader on this transition that we know is vital,” said State Representative Marjorie Decker. “Only today we learned that entire countries have warmed past the climate-critical 2 degrees Celsius threshold. Our legislation and our actions must recognize the urgency of climate change for current generations and the security of the future for our children. One step I’m proud to have taken was to file a bill with my colleague Rep. Sean Garballey that would call for a 100% renewable Massachusetts.”

While solar energy has grown rapidly in Massachusetts over the past decade, policy barriers — including caps on the state’s most important solar policy, net metering — are holding back the continued expansion of solar. The Department of Energy Resources recently announced a review of the SMART incentive program for solar. Advocates hope that the state will expand the program and increase incentives for certain types of projects, including large rooftop installations and solar projects serving low-income communities.

A diverse group of U.S. cities, states, corporations and institutions are committing to 100 percent renewable energy goals. There are now six states that have made commitments to 100 percent clean electricity. At the local level, more than 130 U.S. cities have committed to 100% renewable energy goals, including 12 communities in Massachusetts.

“The City of Cambridge is dedicated to reducing our carbon footprint and increasing our renewable energy sources through innovative programs that are cost-effective for Cambridge residents and businesses,” said Cambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale. “Our Net Zero Action Plan provides a roadmap for achieving carbon neutrality by mid-century and our energy programs help renters, landlords, and homeowners access renewable energy and energy efficiency services for buildings of all sizes. We look forward to working with our partners to further our local and regional clean energy goals.”

In addition, more than 180 major companies, including Bank of America, Google and Anheuser-Busch have committed to power their operations with 100 percent renewable energy.

“When we started BlueWave Solar in 2010, solar energy was just beginning to take off; today, our solar installations have helped avoid the carbon emissions of over half a million polluting cars and brought more than $500M of private capital into the Commonwealth,” said John DeVillars, Chairman and Co-Founder of BlueWave Solar. “We no longer have to choose between what’s best for our business and what’s best for our communities and our planet. We have demonstrated that you can have both. Clean, affordable energy is not only reducing carbon emissions but also providing more than 15,000 Bay Stater’s with good jobs at good wages. It’s imperative for our economy and our environment that we build on that foundation.”

“The reality is inescapable: Fossil fuels pollute our air, water and land, threatening our health and changing our climate even faster than scientists predicted,” said Jacob Stern, clean energy organizer with the Massachusetts Chapter of the Sierra Club. “At the Massachusetts Sierra Club, I’ve spent the last two years organizing at the local, municipal and state level and the overwhelming sentiment is that Massachusetts residents are ready to see the state transition to renewable energy. We need to seize the moment and lean into a future powered by clean renewable energy.”

Click here to read Renewables on the Rise.