WITH LAST MONTH’S approval of the nation’s first large-scale offshore wind project off the coast of Massachusetts, a clean energy future is within our grasp in the United States. Nowhere is that more evident than in Massachusetts.
Our state is poised to deliver 800 megawatts of reliable, clean power to thousands of homes and businesses with the Vineyard Wind project, solar energy has never been cheaper, and Massachusetts continues to receive top ranks for its energy efficiency programs that deliver good local jobs and save consumers money. The equitable clean energy economy we’ve worked so long for is on the horizon, but there remains much to be done. To get there, we must keep thinking big.
Massachusetts has long been a leader on climate policy, and the Next Generation Climate Act signed into law in March was an important step on our climate journey. Now, we need to enact companion policies that set the pace for our transition to clean energy. We need policies that match the scale of the climate challenge we face – that’s why we’re calling on the Legislature to join with six other states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, DC, in establishing a 100 percent clean energy mandate. We have the technologies in place today to achieve this goal, and innovation will only make them more affordable and viable in the coming years. Setting this mandate will jumpstart conversations among policymakers and stakeholders about what it will take to decarbonize our economy and force us to confront the serious challenges we face in transitioning to clean energy.
Alongside this commitment, we need to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to support clean energy deployment. The reality in Massachusetts and across the country is that our electric grid isn’t ready for a clean energy future. It’s getting more difficult to build clean energy projects and ensure the power they generate can get to businesses and homes. It’s time for our state and region to make big investments in our grid infrastructure.
We must embrace new technologies to transform our electric grid from a 19th century relic to a dynamic and distributed system that embraces the software and hardware advances coming out of our colleges, universities, and the innovation ecosystem. We need to make it easier to connect clean energy resources to our grid and reverse the trend of increasing costs and construction timelines associated with clean energy projects. We need to revamp our transmission systems to accommodate the increased electricity necessary to power our vehicles and heat and cool our homes with cleaner resources.
Most importantly, conversations about where these infrastructure investments are sited and who they benefit must include all communities, especially those that have historically been left out. For too long, low-income communities and people of color have borne the brunt of dirty, polluting energy projects and been excluded from the benefits of clean energy. Environmental justice must remain at the center of our plan for a 100% clean energy future.
Without fundamental change, the future we’ve long worked for will remain out of reach. It will take bold, clear action on the part of our leaders in policy and industry to overcome the barriers standing in the way of a clean energy economy. This week, NECEC and the Alliance for Business Leadership will make this case to policymakers on Beacon Hill during our annual Clean Energy Day, which will virtually bring together clean energy business leaders and legislators to discuss the most pressing energy and climate policy issues facing the state, and show how Massachusetts can achieve a thriving, equitable clean energy economy.
Peter Rothstein is the president of the Northeast Clean Energy Council and Jen Benson is the president of the Alliance for Business Leadership.