What about all those “calls to action” that flood our emails? Do they make a difference? As the Massachusetts legislature considered the many issues that will determine our State’s energy future, a huge effort was launched to support clean energy and the many jobs it supports. Green Needham members worked with the Needham League of Women Voters, plus members of local houses of worship and the MA Interfaith Coalition for Climate Action. We rallied. We marched. We stood in jam-packed legislative hearings. We circulated petitions. We urged people to contact their legislators — and many did.
Now that solar bill and the omnibus energy bill have passed, what has been accomplished?
Not a set of perfect bills, but certainly some important gains.
A close call for solar. By early 2016, the solar industry in Massachusetts was on hold. Incentive programs were uncertain, and clean energy advocates had been stunned by what they saw as a disastrous version of a solar bill passed nearly unanimously by the House in November 2015. Then, three months later, the advocacy paid off. In an unusual move, 100 state representatives, including Denise Garlick, signed onto a letter urging House negotiators to come up with more solar-friendly provisions as they worked with Senators on a compromise bill. Their letter stated that “our offices have been contacted by constituents, municipalities and businesses, that are concerned this [November 2015 House] legislation will lead to job losses, jeopardize environmental programs, and raise electricity bills.” The final compromise bill passed by the legislature has left more work to do to solidify solar, but it gave the solar industry some breathing room, avoiding the worst provisions that would have undermined the future of solar in Massachusetts.
And finally — a road map for clean energy. As the legislative session drew to a close on July 31, An Act to Promote Energy Diversity was passed and later signed by Governor Baker. According to Mass Power Forward, a coalition of clean energy advocates: “This energy legislation represents vital progress on offshore wind, gas leaks, and other key issues. It requires utilities to obtain 1600 MW of electricity from offshore wind — the largest commitment to offshore wind in the nation. The bill also requires utilities to repair environmentally damaging gas leaks, creates a panel to guide the decommissioning of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant, and moves the state forward on energy efficiency and energy storage.
Although the bill is a critical step forward in many ways, it is not as bold as it needs to be in light of the climate crisis. The bill fails to include Senate provisions that would have increased the renewable energy portfolio standard.”
So don’t expect those advocacy emails to stop anytime soon — but do keep in mind that it makes a difference.