Local leaders gathered today outside of Amherst Town Hall to celebrate Amherst, Northampton, and Holyoke’s inclusion in a new Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center report on innovative clean energy programs at the municipal level. Amherst Town Council President Lynn Griesemer and Sustainability Coordinator Stephanie Ciccarello were among the speakers at today's event.
“The best ideas for clean energy often start at the local level,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director for the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center. “If we want to have cleaner air, healthier communities, and a safer future for our children, we need to move rapidly toward 100% renewable energy from sources like the sun and the wind. Communities in the Pioneer Valley are showing how to make it happen.”
The report, Renewable Communities, features these three communities alongside 21 other Massachusetts cities and towns that are leading the way to 100% renewable energy. The report discusses renewable electricity, energy efficiency, clean transportation and heating, and energy storage programs, including ValleyBike Share, Amherst’s Zero Energy Town Buildings Bylaw, and the Community Choice Energy PLUS program currently under consideration in Northampton, Amherst, and Pelham.
“In recent years, Amherst has taken major steps to reduce our carbon footprint and increase clean energy,” said Lynn Griesemer, President of the Amherst Town Council. “The Zero Energy Town Buildings Bylaw is one way we can ensure that Amherst continues to support renewable energy and serve as an example of sustainable development.”
Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center shared a preview of the report, including profiles of all three municipalities’ clean energy efforts, at today’s event. The full version of the report will be released on Friday, August 2.
Launched in 2018, ValleyBike Share now connects six cities and towns throughout the Pioneer Valley. With 500 bikes in operation across 54 docking stations, the program’s first full season saw riders cover over 84,000 miles.
The Zero Energy Town Building Bylaw sets ambitious energy efficiency and clean energy requirements for municipal construction projects in Amherst. Amherst was also among three Massachusetts communities to pilot an electric school bus during the 2016-17 school year.
Officials in Northampton, Amherst, and Pelham are exploring a municipal aggregation program, using a Community Choice Energy PLUS model, as a way to increase renewable electricity generation and provide other benefits to local residents and the environment.
The report comes as legislators consider a statewide commitment to 100% renewable energy. The 100% Renewable Energy Act (H.2836, S.1958) would transition Massachusetts to 100% renewable electricity by 2035, and phase out the use of fossil fuels for heating and transportation by 2045. The Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy will hold a hearing on the bill later today. So far, 113 legislators have endorsed the 100% Renewable Energy Act, including Rep. Mindy Domb and Sen. Joanne Comerford.
“To avoid the worst impacts of global warming, we need to transition off of fossil fuels as soon as we can,” said Stephanie Ciccarello, Amherst Sustainability Coordinator. “Transportation is the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state. Increasing access to emissions-free transportation through programs like ValleyBike is one important way to address this issue.”
Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center is visiting five other communities across Massachusetts to share the findings of the report.
“Communities like Amherst, Northampton, and Holyoke are leading the way on clean energy,” said Hellerstein. “We hope to see state leaders follow their example.”
The Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center is dedicated to protecting Massachusetts’ air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help Bay Staters make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives.
Contact: Lukas Kauth, firstname.lastname@example.org 617-459-0414 for more details on today's program/event