Every house, building and car in Massachusetts would be powered by renewable energy sources in the coming decades under a new bill in the state legislature.
That would make Massachusetts the first state in the country to commit to getting 100 percent of its power from renewable sources, such as wind and solar.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, Rep. Sean Garballey, D-Arlington, and Rep. Marjorie Decker, D-Cambridge, would require Massachusetts to source all electricity in the state from renewable sources by 2035. The proposal would require heating, transportation and other sectors to be 100 percent powered by renewable sources by 2050.
“I think Massachusetts needs to show even more leadership than it has in the past, not only to provide an alternative vision, but also to our part to combat climate change,” said Eldridge.
A longtime supporter of growing the state’s solar and wind energy resources, Eldridge, who filed 88 bills this session, said this is bill is among the top three in terms of interest and enthusiasm. Now is the time to address this, as certain counties and cities across the U.S. are already doing this, he said.
As for Feb. 21, there are 54 legislatures who co-sponsored the bill – an encouraging number equivalent to more than a quarter of the legislature, said Eldridge.
“With President Trump and his administration threatening to block energy progress at the federal level, it’s time for state leaders to step up,” said Ben Hellerstein, state director for the nonprofit Environment Massachusetts.
He referenced President Donald Trump’s relationship with the fossil fuel industry and criticism of environmental regulations.
In all, 53 Massachusetts lawmakers – more than a quarter of the state legislature – have signed on to support the bill.
“I am energized by the goals and ideas laid out in this bill,” Decker said. “This signifies a tremendous opportunity to put the environment at the forefront of our public policy discussion.”
Tech giant Google recently announced plans to source 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources. The city of San Diego also recently committed to getting all its electricity from renewable sources by 2035.
Proponents of the Massachusetts bill say costs associated with the proposed transition are uncertain.
Jeff Barz-Snell, chairman of the Salem Renewable Energy Task Force, said programs such as MassSave, which provide rebates for consumers and homeowners to become more energy efficient, could serve as a foundation to facilitate the later phases of the renewable energy bill. Such programs, he said, could be expanded to help homeowners convert from oil heat, for example.
“Some of the programs and policies for retrofitting already exist in some form and would need to be scaled up,” he said.
The first areas of focus, the bill’s backers said, would be energy efficiency and new regulations for new construction. The second target would be accelerating the integration of renewable energy into the power grid. Focusing on home heating systems and vehicles would come later.
“Massachusetts has an almost unique opportunity to lead this revolution globally,” said Jim Boyle, CEO and chairman of Sustainability Roundtable Inc., a renewable energy business consulting group.
The bill also calls for the creation of a Clean Energy Workforce Development Fund, which would, in part, support workers transitioning out of the fossil fuel industry and develop renewable energy jobs in “Gateway Cities,” or low-to-moderate-income former industrial communities.
“It encourages job creation, protects and sustains our natural resources, reduces our carbon footprint and would benefit the health and well-being of our citizens in immeasurable ways,” said Garballey, one of the bill’s main House sponsors. “More importantly, it signals to the country our commitment to long-term solutions in meeting the very real challenges of climate change, and lights the way for similar efforts across the nation.”
In coming weeks, the bill will be referred to the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy before a hearing is held. Eldridge will continue to promote the bill at events he attends. The citizen-based environmental advocacy organization, Environmental Massachusetts, will hold forums across the state to advocate for the bill and gather more co-sponsors, Eldridge explained.
Eldridge said the bill builds off previous environmental policies enacted in Massachusetts.
“Massachusetts has been a leader on alternative energy policy for over a decade, and now with federal assaults on efforts to combat climate change, it will be up to individual states to protect the environmental and health interests of the public,” Eldridge said.
“Massachusetts, now more than ever, needs to be a leader on energy policy, and moving to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 will allow the commonwealth to remain a beacon of hope in moving away from fossil fuels.”
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