The Martha’s Vineyard Commission’s Climate Action Task force is developing a roadmap for the Island to become carbon-free by 2040 as part one of its three-phase plan.
The task force’s energy working group, made up of Richard Andre, Marc Rosenbaum, Alan Strahler, Tom Soldini, Rob Hannemann, and Kate Warner, is defining the challenge the Island faces with a series of four papers focused on electricity, transportation, HVAC and buildings, and energy efficiency.
Last year, the commission established the Climate Action Task Force, a group dedicated to addressing the Island’s response to climate change. The task force is made up of MVC commissioners, MVC staff, community climate experts, and leaders of local sustainable businesses and organizations.
The task force is developing policy and plans in two areas: adaptation to the current and future challenges resulting from climate change and mitigation of the Island’s contribution to climate change.
At a meeting Friday, Hannemann presented the electricity working paper.
The task force’s mitigation is primarily focused on eventually eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel energy generation and use. Their goals are to reduce fossil fuel usage on the Island by 50 percent by 2030, then100 percent by 2040, while simultaneously increasing total electricity use from renewable sources to 50 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040. They plan to achieve this by fostering energy efficiency and conservation, and transforming the Island’s electricity infrastructure with significant renewable energy sources.
The working paper developed an energy and greenhouse gas baseline, using 2018 data from Cape Light Compact, Massachusetts SREC and SMART programs for solar, New England Power Pool, R.M. Packer Co., and the Steamship Authority.
“There’s a lot of people who say, ‘Why would we be worried about energy, electricity, and greenhouse gas emission on Martha’s Vineyard? We’re so small, we’re not a major player in that,’” Hannemann said. “If you’re ever in a conversation like that, there’s a very quick phrase that I use that actually gets to the heart of this: Combating climate change is basically social justice for future generations.”
The group then separated data into three sectors: electricity, transportation, and building-related fossil fuel heating.
In 2018, transportation, which includes gasoline, diesel, marine diesel from the SSA, and aviation fuel, made up the majority of the Island’s energy use, at 45.5 percent. Building HVAC heating oil and propane were at 31.8 percent, with electricity at 22.7 percent.
According to the group, the Island’s energy use in 2018 amounts to the entire 40-day output of a nuclear power plant. Assuming an average Island population of 25,000 in 2018, the Island’s greenhouse gas footprint was 12 U.S. tons per person — compared to the U.S. average of 17.6 tons, Japan’s 9.9 tons, and the U.K.’s 7.2 tons.
“Since there is very little manufacturing on the Island, and distances traveled are very small, our greenhouse gas footprint is basically comparable to the U.S. as a whole,” the working paper states.
This is where transportation and buildings come in. Strategies to reduce energy use include switching to electric cars, reducing miles driven, minimizing heat and electricity for second homes that stand unoccupied for much of the year, using energy-efficient lighting, and developing policy initiatives at the local level. Constructing microgrids for town buildings, essential services, and in some neighborhoods, as well as supporting electric vehicle charging stations, will also be a major focus of planning.
In an effort to meet their goals, the paper states the task force should support the offshore wind industry in New England, plan for on-Island residential and commercial solar generation, and put pressure on the state legislature to pass the Community Empowerment Act, which would give towns and regions the ability to contract directly for renewable energy sources. The task force is also planning a partnership with Eversource to support future planning efforts around electricity.
With a baseline established, the group will continue presenting other working papers before entering phase two, which will work on updating the energy baseline with 2019 data, completing the Island Energy Model, and developing a scenario analysis. Phase three will be the development of a master plan.
Strahler and Soldini will be presenting the working paper on transportation at the task force’s next meeting, on July 3 at 9:30 am.