Wu Announces New Steps To Transition to Renewable Energy

Special to the Times-Free Press

Mayor Michelle Wu announced next steps to purchase renewable energy for municipal properties in Boston in the form of a Request for Qualifications (RFQ). Through power purchase agreements (PPAs) the City seeks to purchase renewable energy from external suppliers, empowering the market as a guaranteed buyer. This announcement is a step towards achieving Boston’s environmental goals that are at the intersection of equity, green jobs, and renewable energy. This procurement is part of a larger initiative to expand additional investments in municipal energy efficiency, accelerate local energy grid transformation while creating new economic opportunities and green jobs. This structure builds off of Renew Boston Trust (RBT), a City of Boston program that finances energy efficiency projects through its projected energy cost savings. The guiding principles of RBT creates green jobs, fosters cost savings, and reduces emissions through energy audits and conservation upgrades for municipal buildings. 

“When the City of Boston invests in green, renewable energy, we all benefit,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “This procurement will help us run our municipal buildings off of clean energy, while also creating green jobs and improving community health for generations to come.”

Throughout Boston, buildings account for nearly 70% of greenhouse gas emissions, and City-owned buildings account for nearly three-quarters of emissions from local municipal operations. To transition to a renewable energy supplier, the City of Boston is seeking proposals from qualified applicants to provide approximately 15,000 MWh per year of electricity to the City’s energy portfolio, which accounts for about 10 percent of the City’s annual energy needs. The City of Boston currently purchases 20 percent renewable energy, which is in alignment with the state’s renewable portfolio standard. The City of Boston will work gradually to increase renewable energy sources within the current energy portfolio while helping to invest in local projects that bring co-benefits to the Boston community, with a particular focus on environmental justice neighborhoods. By providing multiple smaller procurement opportunities annually and by setting clear planning horizons, the City of Boston can reduce barriers and support the creation of a diverse, regional energy market. 

“By stepping out as the first purchaser for renewable energy projects, the City of Boston will stimulate the market to meet our energy needs in a way that is resilient and supports the creation of exciting new workforce opportunities,” said Reverend Mariama White-Hammond, Chief of Environment, Energy and Open Space. “This is an investment in our communities and our collective future and I am thrilled to support Boston in this work.” 

In addition to reducing municipal carbon emissions, the City is encouraging “renewable resource additionality”, which is the development of new, local green energy sources to be incorporated into the energy grid. This step can help foster workforce opportunities and a cleaner, more resilient energy supply. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workforce development within the solar and wind energy industries are projected to have the fastest employment growth between 2020 to 2030. Wind turbine service technicians are expected to see a 68 percent increase in workforce growth and solar photovoltaic installer careers are projected to increase by 52 percent. The data also shows that each of these occupations had a median annual wage that was higher than the $45,760 median for all workers in 2021. 

“As a Green New Deal City, we look for climate investments that provide a return on climate mitigation, economic justice, and quality of life,” said Oliver Sellers-Garcia, Green New Deal Director. “We are harnessing Boston’s energy use to push the development of more renewable energy in our region.  With an ambitious and step-wise timeline for decarbonization, we hope to draw new businesses into the market with each procurement.”  

In addition to increasing renewable energy usage within municipal properties, the City of Boston is working across sectors to ensure all of our residents have access to affordable, clean energy. The City is encouraging residents to assess their current energy supplier and enroll in Boston’s Community Choice Electricity (BCCE) program. Energy prices are expected to increase significantly this winter while BCCE’s rates are locked in until December 2023. Currently, all three tiers of BCCE’s pricing is lower than Eversource’s basic service rates, meaning residents can choose to power their homes and businesses on 100 percent local, renewable energy for less than Eversource’s basic service rate. Residents can opt in or out of the program at any time by visiting boston.gov/bcce or by calling 3-1-1.

In addition to sharing the RFQ, the City will pursue a variety of strategies to achieve its net-zero emissions goal including the implementation of energy conservation measures, the electrification of City operations, and the reduction and eventual elimination of the carbon emissions associated with its annual electricity requirements. This announcement is a key step towards realizing a citywide Green New Deal for Boston while achieving our carbon neutrality goals and working toward creating workforce opportunities in the energy sector. These strategies expand upon Mayor Wu’s recent work to audit all public exterior lighting in Boston and the beginning of Renew Boston Trust Phase III.

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