Voters in Edgartown, Chilmark, and Tisbury will be asked to adopt the 100 Percent Renewable Martha’s Vineyard warrant at upcoming town meetings, an article that supports the Island’s goal of becoming powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.
“Climate change is upon us,” said Alan Strahler, chairman of the Edgartown energy committee, which hosted a forum on the town meeting articles on Monday. “There are visible climate changes on the way, and a lot of tipping points we hope we will never reach. We’re going to feel all of this on the Island.”
The 100 Percent Renewable Martha’s Vineyard warrant article has already been adopted by West Tisbury and Aquinnah, and includes nonbinding, aspirational goals in response to the developing climate crisis. These goals include reducing fossil fuel use on the Island to 50 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040, as well as increasing the fraction of renewable energy use to 50 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040. The article also calls for towns to foster biosphere carbon capture through the adoption of regenerative agriculture and landscaping, the protection and expansion of wetlands, and the preservation of woodland resources.
Both the Martha’s Vineyard Commission and Dukes County voted to formally adopt these same goals.
Strahler was joined by three panelists at the forum: Tom Soldini, a board member of Vineyard Power, Marc Rosenbaum, a mechanical engineer specializing in low-energy, high-performance buildings; and Rob Hannemann, the chair of the Chilmark energy committee and All-Island Sustainable Energy Committee. Through the MVC’s Climate Action Task Force, Soldini, Rosenbaum, and Hannemann have spent the past 18 months building an Island energy model that will analyze and predict possible pathways for achieving the goals of the 100 Percent Renewable Martha’s Vineyard warrant article.
The forum, which was attended by 20-plus Vineyarders, focused on three main avenues to decrease the Island’s dependence on fossil fuels: electric vehicles, energy-efficient and retrofitted homes, and renewable content in grid electricity. According to Strahler, there are strong economic incentives for investing in each. Additionally, investing in renewable infrastructures creates a “virtuous circle” — as renewable energy becomes more popular, the economies of scale reduce the price and reinforces its abundance.
While Strahler noted that investing in renewable energy and infrastructures will save money in the long term, meeting attendees were worried the warrant article would face pushback at their respective town meetings because of the upfront costs. To fund the transition, the Island would need to secure grants from the state and federal government, and take advantage of electrical vehicle rebates and similar refund programs for building heating and infrastructure.
“We are concerned about making sure that this is going to end up being affordable for all of our residents,” said Hannemann. “All three of those items we’ve talked about can be easily demonstrated to have lifecycle cost advantages right now, but not everyone can be thinking about the lifecycle cost. They need to think about today’s capital costs.”
Rosenbaum noted that the adoption of the warrant article would also have localized effects that are difficult to directly quantify. “No matter where you look — whether it’s fixing buildings, building more efficient buildings, building cleaner transportation, building cleaner power grids — there are all these benefits that are not easily monetized without very detailed analysis, but are very real,” said Rosenbaum.
The Edgartown annual town meeting is set for Saturday, May 22, at 1:30 pm, and the 100 Percent Renewable Martha’s Vineyard warrant article is No. 73. The Tisbury special town meeting is set for Saturday, June 12, at 1 pm, and the article is No. 7. The Chilmark annual town meeting is set for Monday, May 24, at 5:30 pm, and the article is No. 36.