FITCHBURG — Millennial lawmakers from Central Massachusetts see the potential for savings, adoption of more energy-efficient technology, and jobs in the clean- energy industry for their communities by advocating for the state to transition to 100 percent renewable energy.
“It’s about being ahead of the game,” said Rep. Jon Zlotnik, a Gardner Democrat. “For cities like Fitchburg, Leominster and Gardner, they figured out a way to do something nobody was doing.”
He and Rep. Natalie Higgins, D-Leominster, along with Fitchburg residents and representatives from groups that support the push, gathered at Fitchburg State Tuesday to discuss a vision for the state to become 100 percent renewable.
Part of that is pitching the personal benefits of using renewable technology like solar panels.
Higgins said she has heard concerns about the cost, which can be a burden in low-income communities. Government officials like hers could help them understand that the technology is affordable and that there are programs available to help with cost.
“We’re trying to demystify it,” she said, adding that her father saved about $400 a month by installing solar panels on his business.
Environment Massachusetts and the consumer group MassPIRG Students, which has a chapter at Fitchburg State, were at the meeting to express their support for initiatives to help the state get its energy from renewable sources.
Shifting the state to 100 percent renewable energy is the Millennial generation’s “moon shot,” said Kevin O’Reilly, a field organizer for Environment Massachusetts.
“Climate change is very much a ‘right now’ problem,” he said. “For generations we’ve kicked the can down the road. … We can be the generation that pulls our planet back from the brink.”
Like Higgins and Zlotnik, the groups support a pair of bills offered by Reps. Marjorie Decker, D-Cambridge, Sean Garballey, D-Arlington, and Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, that would set a goal for the state to get 100 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2035 and have 100 percent of its energy renewable by 2045.
The Department of Energy Resources would set renewable-energy targets and there would be a Clean Energy Workforce Fund for job training and placement for residents to work in the industry.
Between the two bills, Higgins and Reps. Stephan Hay, D-Fitchburg, and Harold Naughton, D-Clinton, have signed on as co-sponsors.
Cities and towns across the commonwealth, including Boston and Lowell, universities, and Partners Health Care have set targets to become 100 percent renewable, according to Environment Massachusetts.
Other states including Hawaii, California, and most recently, New Mexico, have made pledges and plans to get 100 percent renewable energy.
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