As lawmakers debate energy policy, a decade of progress positions Massachusetts to take solar and wind to the next level

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Environment Massachusetts

Boston – Since 2007, Massachusetts has seen a 246-fold increase 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, energy efficiency, and electric vehicles.

“Every day, there’s more evidence that a cleaner, healthier world powered by renewable energy is possible,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director for Environment Massachusetts. “Our recent progress should give us confidence that a 100 percent renewable future is within reach.”

The report, Renewables on the Rise, comes as the end of the legislative session rapidly approaches and lawmakers in the House and Senate work to find agreement on the provisions of clean energy legislation.

The report 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 7th for solar and 1st for electricity efficiency savings.

“Over the last decade, key clean energy technologies have spread across the country and become core parts of our energy system,” said Gideon Weissman of Frontier Group, report co-author. “In 2017, nine states produced at least 20 percent of their electricity with wind and solar power. Back in 2008, not a single state was even close.”

According to the report, Massachusetts is 35th in the nation for the increase in electricity generation from wind between 2008-2017. 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. Next year, Vineyard Wind expects to begin construction on Massachusetts’ first offshore wind farm.

“Our state should be proud of our advances in clean energy deployment, and now is the time to continue our leadership,” said State Representative Frank Smizik. “I look forward to working with my colleagues this session to enact policy that will bring us closer to the goals outlined in this report.”

A diverse group of U.S. cities, states, corporations and institutions commit to 100 percent renewable energy. In 2015, Hawaii became the first state in the country to set a 100 percent renewable electricity requirement, and a similar bill in California cleared major hurdles this year.

In Massachusetts, seven cities and towns have adopted a goal of 100 percent renewable energy, with similar commitments pending in other communities. Boston University and Harvard University have committed to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources, while Hampshire College is already powered entirely by on-campus solar panels.

“It is important that we preserve our planet for future generations,” said Lowell Mayor William Samaras. “I am proud of the work that we’ve started here in Lowell and throughout the Commonwealth, and I hope to see it continue.”

“Springfield takes the management of its energy resources and ‘going green’ very seriously,” said Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. “I truly believe if every community, every household does their part, we can ensure we make the difference in protecting the overall health of our most precious gift, our environment.”

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. The House has passed a bill for 35 percent renewable electricity by 2030. Yesterday, the Senate and House appointed a conference committee to resolve differences between their bills.

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.

The 2017-18 legislative session ends on July 31.

“It’s time to go big on clean energy,” said Hellerstein. “We can have healthier communities today, and a livable planet for our children, if state officials adopt strong clean energy policies including increasing the renewable portfolio standard by 3 percent per year and eliminating the caps on solar net metering.”

Click here to read Renewables on the Rise.