Let’s go renewable
More than a quarter of the Massachusetts Legislature has signed on in support of bills that would require the state to obtain all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2035 and the rest of its energy from renewables by 2050.
The goal of reducing reliance on fossil fuels is worthy, but the fact that 53 of the state’s 200 lawmakers are supporting the legislation filed by Sen. Jamie Eldridge of Acton, Rep. Sean Garballey of Arlington, and Rep. Marjorie Decker of Cambridge is also a bit scary.
No one knows how much the bill would cost, what its impact would be on electric rates, or whether it’s even technically feasible to go all-renewable. Backers say the bill’s renewable targets are not just aspirational but achievable, yet the legislation is being filed at a time when electricity prices in Massachusetts are the fourth-highest in the nation and energy policymakers in the Bay State and across New England are divided over whether to build a new natural gas pipeline into the region.
News reports on the bills described renewable energy sources as things like wind, solar, and hydropower, yet those forms of power currently satisfy only a small portion of the region’s electricity needs.
The regional power grid operator recently held an auction to secure commitments to supply electricity between 2020 and 2021. Of the 35,835 megawatts secured, 0.4 percent came from wind and even less from solar, although 720 megawatts of off-grid solar helped reduce overall demand for power.
Under current law, the state is required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Many environmentalists worry the state isn’t doing enough to reach those goals.
In short, shifting to all-renewable electricity by 2035 would be an enormous challenge. Shifting all other energy uses — vehicles, subways, manufacturing, heating, cooling — to renewables by 2050 would be almost impossible.
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