New Massachusetts bill would make it the first state to go 100 percent renewable

The bill would require the state to get all of its energy — electricity, transportation, and heating — by 2050.

Boston skyline at sunset. CREDIT: iStock
Boston skyline at sunset. CREDIT: iStock

Lawmakers in Massachusetts introduced an energy bill this week that, if passed, would make it the state the first in the country to be powered completely by renewable energy by 2050.

The bill — introduced by three Democratic legislators on Monday — would require Massachusetts to obtain all of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2035. But the bill goes one step further, requiring that the state then transition to 100 percent renewable energy in its transportation, heating, manufacturing, and other sectors by 2050.

If passed, it would easily be the most ambitious clean energy commitment made by any state in the country.

“This legislation provides a bold step by placing the Commonwealth on a path to a cleaner and more sustainable future,” Rep. Sean Garballey (D), a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “It encourages job creation, protects and sustains our natural resources, reduces our carbon footprint and would benefit the health and well-being of our citizens in immeasurable ways. More importantly, it signals to the country our commitment to long-term solutions in meeting the very real challenges of climate change, and lights the way for similar efforts across the nation.”

Massachusetts already has fairly strong statewide climate policies, including the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008, which requires the state to reduce carbon emissions by at least 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2025. Massachusetts is also a founding member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a cap-and-trade program between nine northeastern states. Under that program, participating states have reduced carbon emissions from the electricity sector 15 percent since 2011, while saving $460 million in electricity bills.

Lawmakers do not know how much the bill mandating a switch to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050 would cost — citing ongoing innovation in the renewable energy technology — but the bill has savings programs built into it through energy efficiency programs and renewable energy expansion programs for low-income communities.

“I am energized by the goals and ideas laid out in this bill,” Rep. Marjorie Decker (D), a co-sponsor of the bill, said in a statement. “This signifies a tremendous opportunity to put the environment at the forefront of our public policy discussion.”

While Massachusetts would become the first state to commit to a 100 percent renewable energy plan with the passage of this bill, the shift to 100 percent green energy has been ongoing in cities for some time. Across the United States, 23 cities from San Diego, California to Ithaca, New York, have committed to going 100 percent renewable. This week, Pueblo, Colorado, and Moab, Utah became the first cities to commit to 100 percent renewable energy since the inauguration of Donald Trump.

“No matter who is in the White House, cities and towns across the country will continue leading the transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy,” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune said in a statement.

If Massachusetts passes its 100 percent renewable energy bill, it won’t just be cities and towns leading the charge against the Trump administration’s anti-climate policies — states will have something to say about the matter as well.