“Sleepwalking into a Disaster”: Keynote Dr. Fox-Penner Stresses Energy Efficiency and Electrification as Climate Priorities

“We are sleepwalking into a disaster,” said Dr. Peter Fox-Penner, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Boston University, on reports from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change discussing the imminent risk of climate crisis. “The biggest issue of our time is climate change. And we can’t solve [it] in a silo.” 

As a NASEO 2019 Energy Policy Outlook Conference keynote speaker on Wednesday, February 6, 2019, Dr. Fox-Penner highlighted key strategies for states to meet the climate challenge. 

The first: energy efficiency. Traditional energy efficiency programs have already captured the “low-hanging fruit”; now they need to now dig much deeper. “We need to move away from voluntary and measure-by-measure programs towards comprehensive retrofits and integrative design,” he stated.

Such an approach is a hallmark feature of the newly-completed Carbon Free Boston Plan. It aims to retrofit 65,000 out of 77,000 buildings in Boston by 2050 to meet its goal of decreasing fossil fuel use 85% by 2050. The action could decrease air pollution in neighborhoods by as much as 75%. 

The second strategy: electrification, with a particular focus on the transportation sector. The Carbon Free Boston plan emphasizes the use of policies to advance electric vehicles, including charging infrastructure build-out and financial and other policies (such as preferential parking) to incentivize adoption. 

These aggressive strategies are not realistic without supportive climate and energy plans and policies at the state level, Fox-Penner noted. Crucial policy and program efforts that enable local action on climate change, such as Massachusetts’s leadership on energy efficiency resources standards, help pave the way for ambitious efforts like Boston’s. Other innovative state-wide efforts like the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources’ Green Communities Program, Zero Emissions Vehicle program, MassEVIP Workplace Charging Incentives, and Energy Efficiency Advisory Council, can bring the ambitious goals of the Carbon Free Boston Plan within even closer reach. 

Photo Credit: Randy Martin