We recently marked the fifth anniversary of a package of energy and environmental policies signed into law by Gov. Deval Patrick in 2008. It’s a proud moment for Massachusetts because what we’ve accomplished together will leave a cleaner environment for future generations. Through the governor’s leadership, we have created an economic legacy with the birth of a new industry – the Massachusetts clean energy sector.
I joined the governor at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Bourne, along with several state and municipal leaders and clean energy industry and environment champions, to look back and celebrate the Green Communities Act, the Global Warming Solutions Act and the Green Jobs Act.
Taken one at a time, these laws have driven the growth of a clean energy industry; given cities, towns, businesses and residents across the state the tools they need to take control of their energy use. Collectively, these laws have dramatically shifted the way we procure, generate and use energy and opened up new careers for workers across the state.
Last year, clean energy jobs grew by 11.2 percent.
Massachusetts now invests more in energy efficiency than any other state in the nation, earning the commonwealth the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy’s No. 1 ranking two years running.
Cities and towns across the commonwealth have risen to the clean energy challenge – 110 of them met five criteria to earn the Green Communities Designation. This local revolution has been felt from Cape Cod to the Berkshires and right here in SouthCoast.
In 2012, we saw more solar and wind energy systems go online than every other year combined.
Today, Massachusetts has 281 megawatts of solar installed, surpassing Gov. Patrick’s goal of 250 megawatts by 2017 – four years ahead of schedule.
With projects like the wind turbine spinning at Lightolier in Fall River and solar panels dotting the roofs of homes across the area, the Southeast has seen its clean energy capacity go from 1 megawatt of wind and solar in 2007 to 116 megawatts today – a 116-fold increase.
With technologies like solar-powered hot-water heating systems, hydroelectric power and organic waste-to-energy facilities, it’s clear to see that the clean energy revolution is underway in the Southeast.
More than 15,000 people in the Southeast now work in the clean-energy sector – a number more than the population of Mashpee.
We won’t stop here.
The Department of Energy Resources is mapping out the future of solar electricity and solar heating in Massachusetts to reach the governor’s new goal of 1,600 megawatts of solar electricity capacity by 2020.
As part of that effort, DOER is developing a new package of solar incentives and policies to maintain and expand solar installations, control costs and make it easier to finance direct ownership of solar electricity systems.
Next, we will tackle water innovation. The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center will lead the charge to address the intersection of water and energy.
In Massachusetts, water and wastewater treatment uses 1 billion kilowatt hours of electricity each year – enough to power 132,000 average Massachusetts households. By investing in promising, early-stage ideas, we can help to reduce energy impacts while making Massachusetts a global water innovation hub.
Finally, despite tremendous progress, it is clear that the commonwealth is still facing extreme threats from climate change. We are experiencing stronger storms, more devastating destruction and longer waves of days over 90 degrees, all of which pose threats to our public health, safety, economic vitality and quality of life.
This is why, in addition to working to mitigate our impact on climate change, we must pursue strategies that help us become more resilient and ready to adapt to climate change as it occurs.
My office, working with a robust group of stakeholders, will work to ensure our emergency services can protect residents from inevitable impacts of climate change; assess risks and vulnerabilities to minimize impacts through careful planning; and protect and strengthen both our natural habitats and our built infrastructure to maintain healthy and productive communities.
There’s more work to be done. Massachusetts still faces pressing energy and environmental issues that will take a proactive, well-reasoned and collaborative approach to solve. We hope you will roll up your sleeves and join us.
Rick Sullivan is the Massachusetts Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
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