Massachusetts must fill void left by U.S. withdrawal from Paris Agreement (Guest viewpoint)
Op-ed by Daniel Sosland and Peter Rothstein in Mass Live.
Since President Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, business leaders, environmental organizations and public officials across the nation have expressed concern for the impact on our climate and economy. The momentum we’ve achieved in building our nation’s renewable and clean energy sector must now be picked up by forward-looking states, cities and businesses around the country. Massachusetts is in a unique position to be a leader in this effort.
Massachusetts has a long history of using policy to bolster renewable and advanced clean energy deployment and innovation. Massachusetts was one of the first states in the nation to enact a comprehensive regulatory program to address climate change with 2008’s Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA). Last year, the Commonwealth built upon this leadership with the Energy Diversity Act, supporting offshore wind and other clean energy generation.
These progressive policies and investments in the state’s growing clean energy hub have paid off with strong economic results. A report from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center found that the Commonwealth’s clean energy economy currently employs more than 105,000 people at over 6,700 companies, representing $11.8 billion in investment.
We know the policy tools and technologies needed to reduce climate pollution and accelerate clean energy adoption. Acadia Center’s EnergyVision 2030 shows that deploying a range of market-ready consumer technologies such as electric vehicles and efficient heat pumps to warm and cool buildings can deliver deep emissions reductions over the next 13 years when paired with policies to clean up the power grid.
A report from NECEC found that strengthening one of these policies – a requirement for utilities to purchase clean energy under the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) – would create thousands of jobs across the region, lower wholesale electricity prices and put us on track to meet our ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. Boosting the RPS will also provide long-term market stability and position the Commonwealth to build on its strengths in innovation and advanced manufacturing to capture a significant part of the trillion-dollar global clean energy market.
Massachusetts also needs to modernize its energy grid to support the growth of renewables and empower consumers and communities to control energy usage and costs by adopting clean technologies. Customers need to be provided with information on building energy usage to inform decisions. Barriers to electric vehicles, clean heating technologies and solar energy (in the form of net metering caps) must be removed. And policies must make the benefits of these technologies accessible to all consumers, including low-income families. Pricing carbon will unleash the power of the market to reduce emissions, particularly in the transportation sector, which is now Massachusetts’ largest source of climate pollution. For new and promising technologies such as energy storage, meaningful targets must be paired with enforcement mechanisms and tax incentives to speed deployment.
Policymakers are not solely responsible for driving the clean energy economy. The private sector recognizes that renewable energy is not only good for the planet – it’s good for a company’s bottom line. Renewable energy saved Boston-area hospitals $15 million in just a four-year period – enough to pay for 1,357 of the state’s Medicare enrollees. Big energy consumers like Cambridge-based cloud computing service Akamai are choosing renewables, which will power half the company’s global network operations by 2030.
Here in Massachusetts, we’ve already shown the rest of the country and the world what we can do when city and state governments work hand-in-hand with the business community and the support of the public to pursue clean and cost-effective energy solutions. Given the diminishing support from the federal government to advance a clean energy future, we must work even harder to implement smart energy policies at the state and regional level that grow jobs, drive regional competitiveness and build on the Northeast’s reputation as a clean energy and climate leader. With the leadership void left by our federal government, this work is more important than ever.
Peter Rothstein is president of the Northeast Clean Energy Council.
Daniel Sosland is president of Acadia Center.