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My Turn/Hazard: Pushing for a more energy efficient Mass. means more jobs, lower bills

  • FCCPR is looking for people who want to learn more about the 100% Renewables for All campaign and take action. They are partnering with many local organizations and will be holding informational sessions this month: today in Greenfield at 7 p.m., at Olver Transit Center; and May 13 in Shelburne Falls at 4 p.m., at Arms Library. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO



Monday, May 08, 2017

Nine years ago, Greenfield did an energy audit. The thing that was unique about the audit was that we looked at not only how much energy we used to light and heat our homes, drive our cars and run our businesses, but we also asked the question “what is this costing us?”

What we found was shocking. We found that in 2008, our community of 17,000 people spent $86 million on energy. Then we asked the question — “how much of that money stayed here to pay for customer service and repairing the electrical wires or the natural gas pipes?” We found that only 18 percent stayed here, so that in 2008, $67 million left our community to pay for gasoline, natural gas and electricity. This galvanized us to take action and keep our money in our community.

So how can we do that? The Solutions Project out of Stanford University coaches us take action locally and “electrify everything” — our homes, businesses and cars. Why electrify? If we use electricity, we can control how and where we make it. We can make zero-carbon electricity, and we can make it locally, which creates jobs in our community and keeps our money here.

The Solutions Project says that in Mass. we can meet our energy needs by making about one-third from solar electricity and two-thirds from wind, off-shore and on-shore. We can also reduce our energy use by 40 percent and improve our comfort. We know how to insulate our homes — Mass. is first in the nation on energy efficiency efforts. And, we know and how to build zero-net energy homes.

As for transportation, 30-years ago the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) had a vision of electric vehicles (EV) recharged by renewably-produced electricity and created the Tour de Sol — today we can buy EVs.

The business community understands the economic advantages of a zero carbon economy. Over 1,000 businesses have signed a letter to President Trump asking that we keep our commitment made in Paris to address climate change. Following are excerpts from the letter: “Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk.” “Severe weather events cost billions!” and “Taking the right action now will create jobs and boost U.S. competitiveness.”

In fact, wind and solar generate two and a half to nine times as many jobs as coal, oil, and gas for every $1 million contribution to GDP. Green jobs have already surpassed the number of jobs in nuclear, oil, coal and gas industries combined.

Mass. is a leader. In 2008, we passed the Global Warming Solutions Act, the Green Communities Act and the Green Jobs bill. Today, Mass Power Forward, a coalition of over 200 environmental organizations, have created the 100% Renewables for All campaign that will enable us to achieve these goals — and Greening Greenfield, the Franklin County Continuing Political Revolution (FCCPR) and others have joined the effort.

The campaign toolkit gives us the tools we need to take action in our communities. It includes a check list to help us learn what our community has done and fact sheets on things that we could do.

Greenfield has done many of these things and today we are reaping the benefits. We are now saving $500,000 each year on our municipal utility bills because we have added insulation to many of our buildings and upgraded the heating systems, built a 2 MegaWatt solar farm, installed LED street lights and more. I am also proud that our town created Greenfield Light and Power so that each of us is using 100 percent zero-carbon electricity, 21 percent of which is made locally.

FCCPR is looking for people who want to learn more about the 100% Renewables for All campaign and take action. They are partnering with many local organizations and will be holding informational sessions this month: today in Greenfield at 7 p.m., at Olver Transit Center; and May 13 in Shelburne Falls at 4 p.m., at Arms Library.

Mass Power Forward is also working on legislation in Mass. to make it even easier to take action locally. Over the next 18 months, legislators will be considering numerous bills — many of which support the 100% Renewables for All campaign. Your state legislators need to hear from you that you want legislation that supports the path to 100 percent renewables and that you do not want any more pipelines for natural gas.

To find to more about FCCPR, visit: www.fccpr.us. To find out more about the 100 percent renewable toolkit, visit: MaPowerForward.com. Together we can create jobs, grow our local economy and keep our money in our communities while helping build a healthier planet. Please join us.

Nancy Hazard is the retired director of the Northeast Sustainable
Energy Association (NESEA) and a member of Greening Greenfield and the FCCPR’s Climate Crisis Task Force. She can be reached at nhazard@WorldSustain.net.