Taking action to tackle climate change comes naturally to New Englanders. We spend a lot of time outdoors and we see first-hand that our climate is changing.
Many of us burn wood to heat our homes. We’ve been doing this for generations. It just makes sense. Wood is a local fuel that is available and low cost. Many of us also grow vegetables that feed us and our neighbors. Local food tastes better, isn’t trucked here from far away, and it always delights us to see the bounty of our humble backyards. It all seems part of our natural frugality and common sense.
On broader matters of energy, the same ethic holds.
New England states are leaders on energy efficiency. While other regions are busy selling more electricity and producing more pollution, New England was the first to include energy savings in our electricity markets. We’ve reduced polluting greenhouse gas emissions and soot while avoiding expensive and massive new transmission projects. The result is lower electricity costs and less pollution for everyone.
In the realm of renewable energy, our region’s efforts deserve praise and support. Going back to the 1970s oil embargo, we re-developed local hydroelectric sites and Burlington, Vermont replaced coal with woodchips.
In the past decade, the demands of climate change bolstered New Englanders’ efforts. Many of our states have renewable energy requirements. And the percentage of smaller scale renewable energy is growing in many states in the region. At a time when some sunny states like Florida are seeing limited growth in generation from residential solar, many Vermont utilities are already meeting fifteen percent of the peak demand with solar. And that is in a state with fewer sunny days than Seattle. Like our backyard gardens and woodstoves, our roofs and fields are now using a local resource to harness energy from the sun.
The sale of renewable energy credits or (RECs) by some solar companies means that the renewable aspects from some local solar panels are not claimed in Vermont. To be sure, all companies need to be up-front and honest with consumers about what they are buying. And customers maintain the choice to own the renewable power their panels generate. But that does not diminish the overall good from all solar panels operating anywhere in New England.
Climate change is a global problem. A solar panel that produces electricity replaces or avoids the need to produce power from more polluting power sources, in the gas, oil, nuclear, and coal dependent New England grid — no matter who owns the RECs. Each solar panel in use increases the overall supply of renewable energy to our region. And with rapidly encroaching climate disasters, we can’t get to more renewable energy — everywhere — fast enough.
Solving global climate problems demands that we each do our part. For decades, New Englanders have stepped up and used their common sense to solve energy and pollution problems. We are still at it. Going forward, putting a price on carbon pollution will create even more incentives and opportunities to grow local renewable energy and move away from polluting fossil fuels. Instead of sending billions of dollars out of our region to support polluting oil and gas companies, pricing carbon will build on our past successes, keep more money in the region and do our part to further cut greenhouse gas emissions.
New Englanders’ local actions cutting pollution reaps global rewards. We need to keep at it.