The energy landscape is changing. Massachusetts and the SouthCoast are facing critical choices about their energy future. Large power plants are closing, gas pipelines are being proposed, and new clean energy technologies are emerging. SouthCoast is disproportionately affected by these changes: the closing of Brayton Point coal plant, the potential construction of pipeline and storage tanks in our communities, and developing off-shore wind and solar. Decisions are being made right now at the Statehouse about the design of our future energy system, and these decisions affect your wallet, your health, and your community. What role can you play in these decisions?

Several studies, including the recent report by Attorney General Maura Healey, show natural gas now poses the biggest climate threat to the region. As coal and oil are effectively being phased out of our regional electricity mix, natural gas will start displacing cleaner sources of energy, undermining efforts to reduce climate pollution. Eversource, National Grid, and the Houston pipeline developer are seeking public financing for a new gas pipeline, Access Northeast, running directly through SouthCoast communities. In addition to the public health and economic implications, the pipeline would put Massachusetts over its carbon emission limit by 83 percent in 2050. How will we meet our carbon emission targets if we develop these projects?

The current energy system is designed for a previous era, based on a one-way flow of energy from traditional power plants to our homes and businesses. No longer should energy dollars be poured into fossil fuel power stations, pipelines, and miles of wire. Instead, we should invest in our homes, businesses, and communities, making them the centerpieces of the modern energy system. Renewable and community-based clean energy technologies can meet our energy needs more cleanly and cost-effectively.

With its proximity to an abundance of offshore wind, its leadership on solar, and its commitment to energy efficiency, the SouthCoast has the opportunity to build an energy system of the future, one based on clean energy in our own communities. These energy issues, their impact on the SouthCoast, and what can be done will be discussed at a free public forum, “Building the SouthCoast’s Clean Energy Future,” from 6 to 7:30 Wednesday evening at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational-Technical High School.

Forum topics will include an overview of the current energy system; a highlight of local efforts to combat pipelines; an explanation of the attorney general’s natural gas report and of Acadia Center’s EnergyVision, which outlines a pathway for creating safer, cleaner and more affordable energy systems; and local opportunities to reduce energy usage.

This forum is cohosted by Acadia Center, Leadership SouthCoast, the Marion Institute, Toxics Action Center, and the SouthCoast Media Group. It is the first event in the SouthCoast Community Energy Series, which will explore energy issues affecting the SouthCoast and how local residents and communities can maximize the economic, environmental, and public health benefits of clean energy.

Tyler Soleau is community outreach director for Energy & Climate at the Acadia Center. Jennifer Downing is executive director of Leadership SouthCoast. Janet Milkman is executive director of The Marion Institute, Claire B.W. Miller is lead organizer for the Toxics Action Center.