Environment Massachusetts honors Pittsfield for microgrid exploration (copy) (copy)

Environment Massachusetts state Director Ben Hellerstein, shown during a 2019 visit to Pittsfield, says he has seen “a lot of enthusiasm for moving away from fossil fuels [and] moving towards solar and wind.”

BOSTON — Activists are asking Massachusetts to up its climate efforts to 100 percent through a bill known as the 100 percent Clean Act.

Aiming to facilitate a clean energy transition, the legislation would add deadlines for completely removing fossil fuels from the state’s electricity, transportation and heating.

“I think that on the whole people are very supportive,” said Ben Hellerstein of Environment Massachusetts, who has led the organization’s efforts on the bill. “We’ve found there is a lot of enthusiasm for moving away from fossil fuels [and] moving towards solar and wind.”

Gov. Charlie Baker in March signed a bill committing Massachusetts to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. While that bill requires the governor’s office to set interim emissions limits for every five-year period, the new proposal sets deadlines for ending the use of fossil fuels. By 2035, it would require 100 percent clean electricity, and by 2045, 100 percent clean heating and 100 percent clean transportation would follow.

Sustainable heating took a step forward when Baker signed an executive order last month establishing the Commission on Clean Heat. The commission, the first of its kind in the nation, will provide policy recommendations to the Baker administration to advance efficient clean heating policies.

Under the 100 percent Clean Act, all new houses and small commercial buildings would be required to use energy-efficient and clean heating.

Jane Winn, executive director of the Berkshire Environmental Action Team, said the shift not only would benefit the environment and health, but also would prevent disasters like the 2018 Merrimack Valley natural gas explosions, which left residents without gas, heat or hot water.

Winn added that transitioning to clean energy, as outlined in the legislation, would “be easy” in terms of the technology and resources available.

Berkshire County has been in the process of making access to sustainable energy easier, especially as the 100 percent Clean Act follows the state’s plan to require all new cars sold to be zero-emission vehicles by 2035.

The bill largely focuses on the decarbonization of utilities rather than requiring residents to make large changes to their lifestyles. Among the changes are zero-emission buses and electrified commuter rail lines. Winn said that in the Berkshires, she believes that access to charging stations for electric vehicles has not posed a barrier to more electric vehicles on the road.

“We’ve been having more trouble finding a restaurant to eat at than finding a place to charge our car,” said Winn.

Berkshire County currently has 56 electric charging stations, according to data from Liberty Access Technologies.

Massachusetts would join nine other states in pledging to use only sustainable energy in its electric sector if the legislation passes.

A cost estimate for the 100 percent Clean Act has not been released, although climate groups have proposed, in separate legislation, to raise funds for climate-related investments by pricing carbon emissions while providing a dividend to consumers.