Last Wednesday, more than 30 student activists from seven campuses around the state joined Environment Massachusetts and MASSPIRG students to advocate for a 100 percent renewable energy future. Students met with over 20 legislators at the State House to support legislation that would set a goal of 100 percent renewable energy for Massachusetts.
As an Environment Massachusetts Direct Outreach intern, I had been planning this student lobby day for the last three months. I had set up and confirmed meetings with state representatives, reached out to student organizations and department heads across the state, put together informational packets for both the students and legislators — all in the name of clean energy. And it absolutely paid off.
When we arrived at the State House, students began to head to meetings of the legislators in their district. I started the day attending meetings with Sen. Brownsberger’s chief of staff and Rep. Livingstone. Initially, I was nervous — I had never directly engaged with senators or representatives before, and I thought to myself, “Will these legislators actually take me seriously?” Coming out of those meetings, I felt a new wave of accomplishment and inspiration. It was pleasantly surprising to hear how supportive my representatives were of clean energy, and their plans to continue implementing it in legislation.
BU has a wide variety of environmentally-focused organizations on campus, as well as clubs that include the environment as one of the many issues they focus on. Last December, the Boston University Board of Trustees approved a Climate Action Plan, which included extremely ambitious clean energy solutions. BU has committed to purchasing 100 percent of its electricity from renewable resources, while also working toward reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2040.
While BU is on the right track to sustainability, Massachusetts as a whole needs to do much more, and at a much faster speed to achieve a safe and sustainable future. Our generation has the most to lose from the health and climate impacts of fossil fuels, so it is critical that we urge our state leaders to commit to 100 percent renewable energy and accelerate our progress toward that goal.
Momentum is building for decisive climate action and ambitious renewable energy leadership. Along with BU, several campuses and communities across the state are stepping up to embrace a visionary goal of 100 percent renewable energy. Seven cities and towns, from Amherst to Cambridge, have already committed to a goal of 100 percent renewable energy. MassPIRG students and Environment Massachusetts student activists have been organizing for bold clean energy plans on campuses around the state, and now they are pushing for statewide legislation.
But there is good news: Massachusetts has just taken a big step toward 100 percent renewable energy when a Senate committee signed a clean energy bill.
The Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change, led by Chairman Marc Pacheco, released legislation that would put Massachusetts on a path to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035 and power other sectors of the economy, like heating and transportation, with 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. The bill, entitled “An Act to promote a clean energy future,” is the first major piece of clean energy legislation to move forward in the 2017-2018 legislative session.
The Senate global warming committee’s bill aims to address obstacles to clean energy development and accelerate the growth of solar, wind, and energy efficiency. The bill includes most of the provisions of the 100 percent renewable energy act, filed by Senator Eldridge, last January.
This winter, Massachusetts’ coastal communities experienced record high tides and unprecedented flooding, underscoring the ways that climate change is already affecting our communities and the impacts we can expect to see in the future, unless we move quickly to reduce carbon pollution. According to a recent report, sea levels could rise seven to 10 feet in the Boston area by the end of the century if global warming continues on its current trajectory. BU’s own Center for Integrated Life Sciences and Engineering, the new state-of-the-art research center, was created with rising sea levels in mind, housing the mechanical and electrical necessities for the building to run on the second and third floor instead of the basement. While it’s smart to prepare for the worst, why not also try to prevent the worst?
We need to go beyond incremental progress and embrace a vision of 100 percent renewable energy. We have the opportunity to tackle the climate crisis while building a healthier, greener future and a strong economy. Bills like “An Act to promote a clean energy future” and the 100 percent renewable energy act will help us do just that.
During the meetings with representatives, students also shared the findings of Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center’s new report with state legislators. The report, “Wind Power to Spare: The Enormous Energy Potential of Atlantic Offshore Wind,” finds that Massachusetts could produce more energy from offshore wind than any other state.
According to the report, Massachusetts’ offshore wind potential is equivalent to more than 19 times the state’s annual electricity consumption. If all heating and transportation in Massachusetts were converted from fossil fuels to electric power, offshore wind could still produce eight times as much energy as the Commonwealth consumes each year. So it’s not a question of if we will power Massachusetts with 100 percent renewable energy, it’s a question of when. Offshore wind will play a critical role in our clean, renewable future. The sooner we can tap into our offshore wind potential, the better off we’ll be.
In August of 2016, Gov. Charlie Baker committed Massachusetts to purchasing 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind. After the passage of this bill, several other states adopted similar measures in their efforts to commit to renewable energy resources. Make no mistake, when Massachusetts makes a step toward progressiveness, other states will follow.
Massachusetts should get back to first place for renewable energy and fulfill our potential. We will continue raising our voices to call for a future where our environment is protected, our communities are safe, our air is healthy and our state is leading in renewable energy technology. A transition 100 percent clean energy is crucial in leading our country toward a sustainable, healthier future for us all.