Can M.V. go 100 percent renewable by 2040?

‘Everyone has to be behind it, or it has no chance of happening.’

Robert Hannemann, chairman of the Vineyard Sustainable Energy Committee, talks about how the Island can achieve 100 percent renewable energy. - Brittany Bowker

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. 


  1. If you are eating a hamburger or using straws you are part of the problem said Mayor Pete. Stop letting women control the temperature in the house. We need temperature monitors who roam the streets checking houses for the correct heat. Don’t live in single family houses–use cluster apartments or communes the way the hippies did in the 60’s. Stop inviting people over to the house for BBQ dinners. Restrict the size of the hamburger. Does anyone really need a 3/4 inch hamburger made from beef when you can eat one made from insects? Get rid of your gas stove and stop taking hot showers ; bike to work, ground all airplanes, cap all oil wells. Raise taxes to 70 percent. These are the changes we are all looking for. Those are my principles and if you don’t like them I have others.

    • Andrew — i’m ok with the liberals somehow taking away hamburgers– but they better not mess with my hamberderers —

  2. No, and not keep a decent standard of living for the regular guy…all the millionaires will do fine; they can afford virtue signaling, not so much the rest of us.

    • Is “virtue signaling” the latest cultists’ “in” word for those who can’t think for themselves and deny science because… they are cultists who deny science? Have “fake news”, “hoax”, and “nothing burger” lost their cache now? Asking for a friend. Also, my friend says that you should have noticed by now that millionaires always do fine with standards of living, so, you know, envy hurts and #GetOverIt.

  3. I’m thinking by 2040 there won’t be any “us” left here. It will just be multimillionaires in their 4000 sq ft house’s and a couple thousand Brazilians crammed into 1500 sq feet.

  4. sorry, — can’t happen—70 or 80 % perhaps . The concept of 100 % allows the deniers and the willfully ignorant an opening to mock the truly determined.

  5. Don, I very much agree.
    When the individuals/organizations make these type of assertions , and have the audacity to even put it on a warrant, I have to ask how these people were allowed to be a part of these committees in the first place. They have no idea what they are trying to legislate, or rather they are trying to legislate with their feelings, rather than what are real plausible solutions. The worst part is people will vote for it because it seem like a non binding goal, an emotional victory, rather than something concrete or within reach, like an electrified competitor to the VTA for example…

  6. “Inertia may be our biggest problem.” Umm….hmmm. Entropy. Entropy, or even Gibbs free energy, would be the greatest obstacle toward 100% renewable energy. The definition of “renewable” given in this article, “energy that is not depleted by use,” is a glaring, needle scratching the record sounding, oxymoron of thermodynamics. I know how stuff-shirt this must all sound, but in the world of post-Newtonian physics, someone has to explain how any energy, from wind, solar, radioactivity, or fossil fuels, is 100% renewable. I promise to keep an open mind and listen very carefully. I am not being sarcastic. Okay, so maybe all that stuff about Gibbs free energy and entropy was a bunch of hooey. If someone has a secret, second set of thermodynamic principles, please share them. In either an open or closed system, just tell me how they are going to play out on the Vineyard.

  7. I just lit my wood stove. I hope that will be permitted in our carbon free “non government enforced” future. If wealthy folk want to soothe their conscience they are free to do so. Please leave the rest of us free to stay warm and have a few bucks left at the end of the week.

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