Getting to green: At BCC summit, plotting the path to 100% renewable energy

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PITTSFIELD — 100 percent renewable energy is the goal.

How to get there?

They have many methods.

At a renewable energy summit at Berkshire Community College Monday, speakers presented ideas on expanding renewable energy in the Berkshires.

The main goal of the summit was to share the vision of 100 percent renewable energy statewide and in the Berkshires — both discussing opportunities and talking through associated challenges, said Meghan Hassett, 100 percent renewable energy campaign organizer of Environment Massachusetts, a statewide nonprofit that helped present the event.

Around 50 people were in attendance as of about 10:30 a.m.

Attendees filled every available chair and lined the walls of Room G12 of the Susan B. Anthony Student Center at Berkshire Community College.

The day was organized into panel discussions and breakout groups on different energy topics, like renewable transportation, expanding solar in the Berkshires and retiring fossil fuel plants and greenhouse gas emitters.

Some speakers focused on renewable energy options for individual residents and communities.

Jim Barry, Green Communities coordinator for Western Massachusetts, urged those in attendance to focus on reducing their energy consumption before exploring green energy solutions.

Communitywide, the state offers Solarize Massachusetts, a program that focuses on group purchasing agreements for small-scale solar arrays.

The state's Green Communities program is also an option for towns, he said.

The program provides grants and technical assistance to help municipalities reduce energy use and costs by implementing clean energy projects.

"If your town is not yet green, I'm coming after you," Barry joked.

Multiple communities in the Berkshires have already been designated Green Communities, including Pittsfield, North Adams, Dalton and Hinsdale.

Lawrence Masland, energy efficiency planner for the Department of Energy Resources, told attendees about the state's Home Energy Market Value Performance Pilot program to promote energy efficiency.

The program offers incentives to help residents reduce their home energy use, energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions.

The summit was presented by the Berkshire Communities Green Network, Berkshire Environmental Action Team, Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center, 350MA Berkshires — a branch of a statewide climate action network, Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group students and Berkshire Community College.

At the end of the day, Jane Winn came out with some concrete steps to take — but not as much as she'd hoped for.

"I was pushing for more having lots of good actions to take at the end of the day — and I felt like I came out with some, but not as many as I'd like," said Winn, executive director of the Berkshire Environmental Action Team.

Winn attended the entirety of the summit, which was scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

But the summit got the important players in the same room, she said.

"Having community leaders right there and on board ... is incredibly important and inspiring," Winn said. "I certainly hope this is just moving the ball forward, and we're all going to be continuing to work on this."

State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, and state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, attended the summit.

There is already a meeting planned for today at Pittsfield City Hall about workforce development in clean energy, Winn said.

"So we're already moving it forward," she said.

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at, at @BE_pleboeuf on Twitter and 413-496-6247.


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