In late October, the Vineyard Sustainable Energy Committee (VSEC) and the Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s Climate Crisis Task Force unveiled a commitment to make all six towns on Martha’s Vineyard 100 percent renewable by 2040.
On Tuesday, Robert Hannemann, chairman of VSEC, explained what that means to a group gathered at the West Tisbury library. The talk, “100 Percent Renewable M.V.,” is part of a six-part “Climate Solutions for the Vineyard” series presented by the Island Climate Action Network (ICAN). The same talk happens Saturday, Dec. 14, at the Oak Bluffs library.
‘Renewable’ means energy that is not depleted by use, and target areas include electricity and fossil fuel emissions. Hannemann broke down the warrant article, which is sponsored by the task force and VSEC, and will go before voters at all the annual town meetings: By 2030, reduce fossil fuels by 50 percent, and by 100 percent in 2040. By 2030, increase the fraction of our renewable electricity use by 50 percent, and by 100 percent in 2040. There’s also a commitment to recapture carbon from the biosphere through regenerative agriculture and landscaping, protecting wetlands, and preserving woodland resources.
Hannemann briefed the group on where the Island stands, using 2018 as a baseline. Looking at electricity, transportation, and building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC), electricity represents 23 percent of the energy used on the Island (of which about 7.7 percent is solar); building HVAC represents 32 percent of energy used (30 percent heating oil, 70 percent propane); and transportation makes up 45 percent of energy used (gasoline and aviation gas make up about 45 percent, diesel and marine diesel make up another 45 percent, and the Steamship Authority makes up about 10 percent). Electricity generates 214 GWh (gigawatts per hour), building HVAC 430 GWh, and transportation 430 GWh.
Hannemann said the Island is on the right track to reduce these numbers, but support from the community is critical. “Everyone has to be behind it, or it has no chance of happening,” he said. He also stressed the goals are aspirational, and the warrant article is nonbinding. “It’s not going to be a dogmatic, government-enforced change,” Hanneman said. “These are goals. You have to have goals if you want to get somewhere.”
Hannemann challenges the notion that we have to give up our way of life to achieve this vision. He offered the group of about 30, the majority of whom were taking notes, facts, suggestions, and encouragement looking toward a 100 percent renewable future.
“We’re suited to meet these goals,” Hannemann said. “Inertia may be our biggest problem.”
Many communities are setting similar goals. In fact, there are at least 140 cities and nine states with similar plans in place. In 2008, the state of Massachusetts called for 25 percent greenhouse gas reduction by 2020 (the state reached 21 percent in 2018) and an 80 percent reduction by 2050. Legislators passed a bill to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2035 — faster than what VSEC is proposing for the Vineyard. “So we’re not proposing anything more looney than what our legislators are,” Hannemann said.
And not only is it possible, Hannemann stresses, it’s economically viable. Offshore wind is already less expensive than fossil fuel electricity, as are some electric vehicles.
“We have two decades to transition to electric vehicles,” Hannemann said. “Light-duty vehicles are cost-effective, and heavy-duty vehicles are coming. No, we won’t have electric fire engines by next year, but by 2030 is well within reach.” When Hannemann asked how many people drive more than 100 miles a day, not a hand went up. “Electric vehicles are perfect for the Island,” Hannemann concluded.
Electrification of HVAC systems is also within reach. Air-source heat pumps have lower energy costs than fossil fuels, and heat and cool with the same equipment.
“Using heat pumps is about half as expensive as using propane,” Hannemann said. “The technology is here today. We don’t have to wait.”
Hannemann painted a positive, can-do picture for the future of the Island’s climate vision. “The point is, we have to change. We can’t do things the same way we did in 2010. But our lifestyle is not going to change that much,” Hannemann said. “I believe we have the committees, the infrastructure, leaders, and volunteers to make this happen. I hope I provided a reason for you to believe that, too.”
Hannemann will present the second “100 Percent Renewable M.V.” talk at the Oak Bluffs library on Saturday, Dec. 14, from 2:30 to 3:30 pm.