In polarized times, clean energy is what unites us

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With today’s political climate in Washington, D.C., so polarized, it may seem like liberals and conservatives have hardly anything in common. But there’s at least one point on which the overwhelming majority of residents and businesses in Massachusetts agree: We should accelerate the transition away from fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy. 


Massachusetts residents from all walks of life overwhelmingly support increasing the use of renewable energy like solar and wind. According to a poll conducted by WBUR and MassINC in 2015, 88 percent of Southeastern Massachusetts residents want to see more of our energy come from solar power, and 77 percent would like to see more wind energy. 


It’s not surprising that clean energy enjoys such broad support. Solar and wind power projects are helping clean our air, protecting our health from dangerous pollution, creating hundreds, if not thousands, of local jobs, and preventing the worst impacts of global warming, including destructive sea level rise and ocean acidification. 


Around the world, government officials, business leaders, and ordinary citizens are realizing the benefits of switching to renewable energy. More than a hundred of the world’s leading companies have pledged to get 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources, including IKEA, Johnson & Johnson, Amazon, and General Motors. In fact, Google sourced 100 percent of its electricity from renewable resources in 2017. 


The Netherlands and France recently announced that their countries would end the sale of gas-powered cars by 2040, and switch to electric vehicles, while Norway will sell only electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2025. Other European countries are also preparing similar initiatives. 
And Boston University recently announced a commitment to get 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by the end of 2018. 


Here on the Cape and Islands, we’re fortunate to have strong leadership from businesses, nonprofits, and local officials working to transition our region to 100 percent renewable energy. This fall, dozens of political and business leaders, including our state representatives Senator Julian Cyr and Representative Dylan Fernandes, came together at the Cape and Islands 100 Percent Renewable Energy Summit in Oak Bluffs to strategize for accelerating our local transition to renewable energy. 


Already, our region has many examples of clean energy leadership to build on. For example, the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative has installed nearly 30 megawatts of solar power, and Vineyard Power has partnered with offshore wind developer Vineyard Wind to build a proposed 800 MW project capable of powering 400,000 homes. 


The town of Wellfleet recently received a $120,000 grant from the state’s Green Communities program to improve the energy efficiency of its municipal buildings. Mashpee, Truro, and West Tisbury have also received Green Communities funding for energy-efficiency upgrades. The town of Oak Bluffs has leased an electric vehicle for town usage, and installed electric vehicle charging stations at its library. And the Vineyard Transit Authority, which carries more than 1.3 million passengers each year, has announced plans to replace its entire diesel fleet with electric buses powered in part by solar. 


These examples should give us confidence that we can go much further. Massachusetts has the potential to get at least twice as much electricity as the state uses each year from solar power, and more than 11 times as much from offshore wind. Now we should all work together at a local level to accelerate our progress toward 100 percent renewable energy. 


Communities can commit to a goal of 100 percent renewable energy, and take steps towards achieving that target. Many cities and towns are taking advantage of state funding through the Green Communities program to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. 


On the state level, leaders can advance legislation like the 100 Percent Renewable Energy Act and An Act for Community Empowerment. The former bill would commit Massachusetts to source all of its electricity from renewable resources by 2035, and switch over other forms of energy use, like heating and transportation, to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050. The latter bill would enable any municipality to enter into long-term contracts on behalf of its residents to finance new renewable energy projects, such as solar and wind. 


State officials should also continue to move full speed ahead to accelerate the transition to the tremendous offshore wind resources off the coast of Massachusetts. Recently, three companies submitted bids to supply offshore wind energy to Massachusetts residents — a major step forward to a 100 percent renewable future. 


Residents and civic leaders in the Cape and Islands are united in calling for a future powered by 100 percent renewable energy. Let’s work together to build a healthy, prosperous, and pollution-free future.

Rebecca Rutenberg