To acquire wisdom, one must observe

Advocacy for policy change: powering us through politically empowered renewables

Combating the climate crisis is not contingent on whether people believe the science or not, it is contingent on political will. Historically, energy reform has been led primarily by entrepreneurship and the private sector, but legislative efforts are slowly catching up to non-governmental agencies. According to the Yale Climate Opinion Maps for 2018, 62 percent of adults in Massachusetts believe that global warming is mostly caused by human activity and 69 percent believe their governor should do more to address this issue.

Environmentally favorable changes, such as transitioning to renewable energy statewide, are inevitably dependent on governmental action. Beyond environmental benefits, providing Massachusetts consumers with a diverse energy system consisting of zero carbon energy sources eliminates the inconsistent price fluctuations intrinsic to natural gas services. The natural gas market is extremely vulnerable to supply instability and therefore prices spike during periods of shortage.

To keep the state in line with the framework set in the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008, an increase in Massachusetts renewable energy portfolio (RPS) is needed. A comprehensive bill titled “An Act transitioning Massachusetts to 100 percent renewable energy,” S. 1958/H. 2836, sets guidelines by which the state can achieve 100 percent renewable electricity and subsequently 100 percent renewable energy across all sectors by 2035 and 2045 respectively.

This bill aims to build a green economy through increasing energy efficiency, affordability and reliability. It also takes into account disproportionately affected communities and fossil fuel work displacement.

The passing of such legislature could be monumental in mandating a shift to a clean energy economy. Such an economy will create thousands of local jobs and provide consumers with more energy choices. A report by Applied Economics Clinic (AEC) predicts that implementing policies that will increase the state’s RPS, expand offshore wind energy production and storage and allow more flexibility with net metering, will be advantageous for the Massachusetts economy. The report predicts an annual increase of $263 million in economic growth from 2018 to 2030.

One concern that some Massachusetts legislators share has to do with the gravity of requiring this 100 percent renewable energy goal by a specified date because of the possibility of failing to meet those given requirements. Consequently, there is fear in passing such a high stakes act. However, Massachusetts State Senator Michael Barrett loosely equates the passing of this bill to him telling his wife he’s going on a diet. Although it is true that the passing of this bill itself will not solve the climate change problem or even guarantee a clear grid, goal setting is an integral first step.

Implementation, however, is the real driver of change. If Massachusetts wants to stay true to its national image as a leader in combating climate change, renewable energy policy implementation is a necessary move.

This bill would declare Massachusetts on par with California and Hawaii, leaders in the fight for a clean energy future. As a state that prides itself on being at the forefront of progressive movements, it would naturally prioritize the steps needed in order to meet the agenda outlined in the bill. The prospect of Massachusetts being a hero in fighting climate change is also an enticing reason for bold action.  

Massachusetts is especially vulnerable to the impacts of the rising sea level and is one of the states that is already experiencing climate change firsthand through inland flooding, coastal flooding, extreme temperatures and other weather-related events. Between the years 2007 and 2014, Massachusetts spent over $9.1 million in flood repairs annually.

Legislators should hold themselves morally responsible for getting ambitious legislature passed in the same way that all of us should feel morally responsible for advocating the need for such legislature. “The path is there, if only our leaders will choose to take it,” said Amory B. Lovins. To make sure this bill gets passed, speak to your legislators and advocate for this bill to be voted out favorably from the joint committee on telecommunications, utilities and energy.

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