May 12, 2021

The Cultivation of the Clean Energy Economy in Massachusetts

Jason Maniscalco, Community Clean Energy Fellow

As the spring crowds walk through the Boston Public Garden, soaking in the beauty of this enclave of nature in the center of a concrete and steel jungle, it is interesting to think that every cherry blossom tree began as a seed. After these seeds are planted and before the cherry blossom trees mature into adulthood, it takes careful support, luck, and patience from those who are in-charge of the Garden’s upkeep. From planting the seeds, to pruning, to fertilizing the soil, the Boston Public Garden’s team fosters a stimulating environment allowing the cherry blossom tree to grow. This watchful eye is analogous to the role the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) plays in stimulating growth within the clean energy economy. Our mission is to accelerate the clean energy and climate solution innovation that is critical to meeting the Commonwealth’s climate goals, advance Massachusetts’ position as an international climate leader, and grow the state’s clean energy economy.

Two MassCEC programs, HeatSmart and Solarize Massachusetts, seek to increase the adoption of small-scale solar electricity and clean heating and cooling technologies in participating communities by utilizing vetted installers and group purchasing power to lower installation prices for participants. We fill the community’s toolbelt with the proper tools to maximize the potential impact of their program. Then, provided with materials from MassCEC, community volunteers educate their neighbors on the various benefits of these technologies and work with the vetted installers to increase the adoption of the selected technologies. Since 2011, Solarize and HeatSmart programs can account for 4,215 signed contracts for solar electricity or clean heating and cooling technologies. In the 2020 programs alone, 268 (and counting) contracts have been signed. The HeatSmart and Solarize programs act as the seeds for future growth in the clean energy economy of Massachusetts.

The fertile soil surrounding HeatSmart allowed for a courageous and enthusiastic group of volunteers to plant their own seed, which resulted in the development of the HeatSmart Alliance (HSA). The HSA is a volunteer group that promotes adoption of low-emissions heating, cooling, and related technology in our communities. Their goal is to, “accelerate the adoption of energy-efficient heat pumps in Massachusetts homes and buildings. [They] focus on air- and ground-source heat pumps, heat pump water heaters, and weatherization as vital components of the overall strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings.” This group of 34 volunteers from 21 communities focuses on education, simplifying installer evaluation and selection, and collaborating with other like-minded organizations.

As the HSA’s origins can be traced to HeatSmart, MassEnergize can trace its roots to Solarize Massachusetts. MassEnergize was formed by prior volunteers who worked with MassCEC on one HeatSmart and two Solarize campaigns in their respective communities. Their mission is to provide community leaders in Massachusetts with the support to motivate and help their residents, businesses, schools, and congregations take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for a changing climate. To further these goals, this group has created a platform that allows interested communities to build a customized and interactive website for their clean energy technology programs. This platform allows community organizers to set and track goals, upload local actions and events, analyze other metrics, and reach subscribers. An example of their demo-website can be found here. While originally composed exclusively of volunteers, MassEnergize has grown to offer paid positions, stimulating the growth of clean energy related jobs. See MassEnergize’s website for current job postings.

The power to bring about positive change for future generations lies within community members across Massachusetts. MassEnergize and the HeatSmart Alliance are only two examples of community members coming together to put down roots in the fertile soil that has been cultivated by MassCEC. If you are inspired to start a clean energy technology campaign in your community, MassCEC has created resources to help. The Solarize-HeatSmart Toolkit includes materials to assist in community outreach, marketing, installer selection, campaign management, event planning, and campaign wrap-up and analysis. Individual and group efforts like these are a lesser seen yet critical part of reaching Massachusetts climate and clean energy goals. The first step is to plant the seed.

We will be writing future blog posts on HeatSmart and Solarize-like campaigns. If you would like us to highlight the successes of your program or have questions about a campaign you are planning, please reach out!