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Clean energy growing, but hurdles remain

Three of Deepwater Wind's turbines stood in the water off Block Island, R.I. A huge wind farm off the Massachusetts coast is edging closer to federal approval, setting up what the Biden administration hopes will be a model for a sharp increase in offshore wind energy development along the East Coast.Michael Dwyer

The last decade of advancements in clean energy technology and its adoption here and around the country proved that 100 percent renewable energy is a realistic goal for Massachusetts, activists said Wednesday, if the will is there among the state’s political leaders and if resistance to some clean energy projects can be overcome.

Environment Massachusetts released its annual report Wednesday examining Massachusetts’ progress in wind energy, solar power, electricity energy efficiency programs, electric cars, and energy storage over 10 years and comparing the growth with the rest of the states. As of 2020, America was producing nearly four times as much renewable energy from the wind and sun (11 percent) as it was in 2011 (3 percent).


And if wind, solar, and geothermal generation maintain the growth rates they showed over the last decade, those three sources alone could meet the nation’s electricity demand by 2035, the organization said in its report.

“The last decade has proven that clean energy can power American homes, businesses, and industry. And it’s put America on the cusp of a dramatic shift away from polluting energy sources,” said Hanna Nuttall, a clean energy associate at Environment Massachusetts. “With renewable energy prices falling and new energy-saving technologies being developed every day, Massachusetts can and should set its sights on sourcing 100 percent of our energy from clean, renewable sources.”

Environment Massachusetts supports legislation (H 3288/S 2136) that would require utilities to provide 100 percent clean electricity by 2035 and would transition Massachusetts to 100 percent clean heating and transportation by 2045.

The bill, which Environment Massachusetts said has the support of 88 legislative cosponsors and more than 60 environmental and civic groups, is awaiting a hearing before the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy. Supporters said Wednesday that the new Environment Massachusetts report “affirms that our vision of 100 percent clean energy in Massachusetts is not a pipe dream.”


“The question no longer is ‘is 100 percent clean energy possible?’” said Jess Nahigian, political and legislative director for the Massachusetts Sierra Club, during a press conference held to discuss the report. “Instead, the question is ‘can we marshal the political power to meet the urgency of the climate crisis?’”

The referendum earlier this month in Maine that dealt a significant blow to the transmission project that is intended to bring clean hydropower from Quebec to Massachusetts showed, though, that political will is not necessarily enough to make the switch to clean energy a reality.

Despite support from the current Democratic governor of Maine, Republican Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, the former Republican governor of Maine, and the Democratic Biden White House, Maine voters made clear that they do not want the New England Clean Energy Connect project to advance as planned, potentially undermining the region’s clean energy goals.

Nuttall said Wednesday that she does not think the result of the Maine referendum was “Mainers saying that they don’t want renewable energy.”

“I think that the concerns in the opposition were more to do with the siting and the fact that the project would be running through Maine but delivering energy essentially to Massachusetts,” she said. “And so I don’t think that that was voters saying that they’re not ready for renewable energy. But I also think that with this project maybe falling apart, we have an opportunity still here in Massachusetts to produce renewable electricity within the state.”