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Bill would make Massachusetts first state to commit entirely to renewable energy

The proposed legislation aims at having the Commonwealth use clean energy for all of its electricity needs by 2035.

Environmental advocaes cite the extreme winter weather and intense summer drought Derek Kouyoumjian / Metro

Massachusetts is already a leader in clean energy initiatives, but environmental advocates and three state legislators believe far more can be done.

A recently introduced bill would make Massachusetts the first state in the nation to commit entirely to renewable energy sources for electricity, heating and transportation.

Called the 100 Percent Renewable Energy Act, the measure has already garnered the support of 53 House and Senate members — more than a quarter of the legislators on Beacon Hill, said Ben Hellerstein, state director with Environment Massachusetts.

Activists are working to garner more support for this bill, which is just one of thousands to be considered by the legislature during the current two-year session.

The bill was introduced by state Representatives Sean Garballey and Marjorie Decker, and state Sen. Jamie Eldridge.

RELATED:Massachusetts added thousands of clean energy jobs in 2016

“If passed, this would be the most ambitious clean energy initiative by any state so far,” Hellerstein said. “It’s up to Massachusetts to lead the way forward … for a cleaner, safer future.”

The bill sets different deadlines, requiring all electricity in the Commonwealth to be sourced from clean energy initiatives like solar and wind by 2035; and heating, transportation, and others by 2050.

Steve Linsky from Climate Action Western Massachusetts, a climate advocacy organization, said the state has already seen the effects of climate change, from severe drought in the summer to massive snowfall in the winter.

While 100 percent renewable energy may seem like a lofty goal, it is “not merely possible, but long overdue,” Linsky said. “With each and every day our elected officials fail to act, we fall further behind.”

The Massachusetts bill would create a Clean Energy Workforce Development Fund in order to increase job opportunities in solar, offshore wind and other clean technologies.

It would also require the state Department of Energy to set “binding targets” for renewable energy growth in major sectors of the economy and create regulations to ensure that the state stays on track.

RELATED:Boston faces 'serious risk' from climate change: Report

Shifting to 100 percent renewable energy would require homes already equipped with oil and natural gas heating to upgrade, a costly upgrade. Hellerstein said he could not provide a long-term cost estimate because the technologies for renewable energy are constantly changing and becoming less expensive.

He contends the savings in the long run would exceed the total bill, and cited a study that looked at the cost of a global transition to 100 percent renewable energy.

That study estimated a global change would cost $70 trillion over the next several decades, with a cost savings in excess of $115 trillion.

San Diego recently pledged to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity by 2035, and Google announced it will source all of its electricity from renewable sources this year. But if approved, Massachusetts would be the first state to undertake that effort.

“Massachusetts has a long history of leading the way and it's not just as innovators but also as advocates,” said Jeff Barz-Snell, chair of Salem’s Renewable Energy Task Force. “This is as much a moral issue as it is an infrastructure and resource issue.”

 

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