Cities and towns are taking ambitious steps to increase renewable electricity generation, reduce energy use, and shift to clean heating technologies, according to a new report from the Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center.

“The best ideas for clean energy often start at the local level,” said Ben Hellerstein, state director for the 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. These communities are showing how to make it happen.”

The report, Renewable Communities 2021, features the following seven case studies of Massachusetts cities, towns and regional agencies that are leading the way to 100% renewable energy:
Arlington and Winchester: A community outreach campaign resulted in 224 contracts signed for the installation of clean heating systems like air source heat pumps.

Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative: A coordinated approach to renewable energy deployment, bringing together dozens of municipalities and government agencies, has led to more than 50 megawatts of solar capacity built or in development.

Chelsea: A proposed microgrid, managed by an innovative cloud-based system, would ensure clean, reliable power for buildings that provide key services to the community.

Mendon and Upton: A Solarize Mass Plus program offered residents a choice of six different clean energy technologies, including solar, battery storage, and air source heat pumps.

Natick: Town officials have pursued several strategies to increase the deployment of solar on municipal buildings and on homes.

Springfield: A 4.7-megawatt community solar array, built on a former landfill, is providing affordable electricity to hundreds of low-income residents.

Worcester: The city’s Community Choice Aggregation Program is providing residents with a higher percentage of renewable electricity from sources in New England.

At a virtual event on Aug. 17, local leaders discussed the findings of the report and shared their perspectives on the importance of municipal action on clean energy.

“The Solarize Mendon-Upton Campaign was all about engaging the community around clean energy solutions,” said Anne Mazar, Mendon’s municipal representative for Solarize Mendon-Upton. “Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, we were able to educate hundreds of residents about the potential to transition away from fossil fuels. Thanks to the efforts of local officials and volunteers, as well as support from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, our program succeeded in a big way. If we can do it, other communities can, too.”