Massachusetts is on the cusp of an energy revolution that could serve as a model for the nation in addressing climate change while creating new 21st century jobs.
For the first time, New England’s electrical grid operator is proposing that the region produce more electricity from wind power than natural gas. The market for renewable energy sources, especially solar and wind, has exploded in the region, meaning gas will soon be a thing of the past for New England.
This is good news, not only for the environment but for thousands of manufacturing and engineering workers across Massachusetts.
The clean little secret about renewable energy sources is that they create jobs. And not just any jobs, but a multitude of high-paying careers ranging from engineering and construction to scientific research and sales.
Clean energy also helps companies and local cities and towns save money on energy bills each year.
Companies like Secure Energy, with an office in East Longmeadow, assists businesses in becoming more energy efficient, from retrofitting their buildings to finding and using electricity providers that can cut the cost of keeping their lights on.
Meanwhile, the town of East Longmeadow struck a deal with Altus Power America to purchase “net metering credits” in a solar farm in neighboring Hampden and sell back the energy created by the farm to the electric grid. The town is expected to save up to $125,000 a year on its energy bills as a result.
The deal, known as a Net Metering Credit Purchase Agreement, was made possible by pioneering directives from the Department of Public Utilities as far back as 1981 and ultimately enacted by our state legislature in the 2008 Green Communities Act.
Massachusetts has long been at the vanguard of state-level actions to address climate change, and that leadership is more important now than ever before. When President Trump pulled America out of the Paris Agreement, Massachusetts joined California, New York, Washington other states in the U.S. Climate Alliance to commit to meeting the emissions reductions in the Agreement.
The state Senate will soon be voting on an omnibus energy bill, crafted under the leadership of Senators Marc Pacheco and Mike Barrett, that makes those commitments concrete. Among many ambitious objectives, the bill sets aggressive new goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, establishes a statewide clean fuel standard and creates a Clean Energy Workforce Development Fund to increase access to jobs in the clean energy sector.
Fighting climate change and growing our economy are not two conflicting goals. In reality, one supports the other.
Researching new technologies at UMass-Amherst and WPI and MIT — and building the parts for future solar panels and storage batteries in Ludlow and Chicopee and Springfield — will not just set an example for the country on how to fight climate change.
It will help Massachusetts retain its leadership in the high-tech economy, providing opportunities for economic growth and development for decades to come.
Eric P. Lesser, of Longmeadow, is senator for the First Hampden & Hampshire District, serves as co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development & Emerging Technologies, and leads Millennial Outreach for the state Senate.