A group of environmentalists are calling on Massachusetts to get an increasing amount of its energy from renewable sources. "With officials in Washin
Environmentalists push for 100% renewable energy use in Massachusetts


A group of environmentalists are calling on Massachusetts to get an increasing amount of its energy from renewable sources.

"With officials in Washington, D.C., threatening to roll back clean energy and climate policies, it's time for states to step up," said Ben Hellerstein, state director of Environment Massachusetts.

The advocates are pushing for bills HD.3357 and SD.1932, sponsored by State Rep. Marjorie Decker, D-Cambridge, State Rep. Sean Garballey, D-Arlington, and State Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, which would require Massachusetts to get all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2035. All of its heating, transportation and other sectors would have to be powered by renewable energy by 2050.

Massachusetts would be the first state to implement such high standards.

Hellerstein said it is impossible to predict how much the move would cost, since the technology is continuing to develop and becoming more cost-effective.

A few cities and private companies are starting to move in this direction. San Diego set a goal of getting 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2035. Google hopes to be powered entirely by renewable energy this year.

Jim Boyle, chairman and CEO of Sustainability Roundtable, which helps companies move toward environmentally sustainable policies, said in a conference call with reporters that the move among companies is fueled by improvements in technology, which are now globally scaled. Boyle said Massachusetts has the technical expertise, private capital and innovation economy needed to make it a global leader in the use of renewable energy.

Renewable energy sources include things like wind, solar and hydropower.

Massachusetts already has relatively high requirements for how much energy must come from renewable sources. The Global Warming Solutions Act, passed in 2008, requires Massachusetts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020 compared to 1990 levels.

This bill would go much further. Asked whether it is a realistic goal, Hellerstein said it is "not just aspirational but it is achievable" through things like improving energy efficiency and making the electric grid fully renewable-based. He said it is necessary to combat climate change and mitigate the public health impacts of fossil fuel use.

Even if new construction is built to rely on renewable energy, Hellerstein acknowledged that at some point, the state would need to create programs and incentives to help homeowners switch from oil-based heat to, for example, electric heat pumps. Some programs already exist and could be scaled up.

Steve Linsky of Climate Action Now, an environmental group in the Pioneer Valley, said Western Massachusetts residents are moving in this direction through greater use of solar panels on houses and electric cars. The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority introduced electric buses into its fleet.

"We're seeing in real ways the public's desire in Western Massachusetts to forge ahead with a new generation renewable energy economy that provides more higher paying jobs, cleans our air, and protects our earth for future generations," Linsky said.

The bill has gotten support from 53 lawmakers in the House and Senate. It is one of thousands of bills the Legislature will consider over the two-year session.





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