JP Observer: Local nonprofit boosts greener world with and for energy consumers

Transportation—including electric cars—a major focus

Green Energy Consumers Alliance, located in the JPNDC Brewery Complex at 284 Amory Street, has the climate-saving mission “to harness the power of energy consumers to speed the transition to a low-carbon future.”

To do that, the non-profit has programs and services for residents and businesses that help them improve their energy choices. At the same time, Green Energy Consumers advocates for green policies and programs locally and beyond.

Green Energy Consumers is responding to the large portion of harmful greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions transportation contributes. In Massachusetts, according to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection’s latest inventory in 2017, a full 42 percent of our GHG emissions come from transportation, Anna Vanderspek, director of the Electric Vehicle (EV) Program at Green Energy Consumers, told the Gazette.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency reports that the transportation sector “accounted for the largest portion (29 percent) of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2019.” (Other sectors are: electricity, industry, agriculture and commercial.)  

“Drive Green,” launched in 2016, is Green Energy Consumers’ electric vehicle discount and education program that makes driving an electric vehicle easier by offering information about: environment and health; charging and driving; along with discounts—using presentations and showcases.

Their stated mission is “to protect our climate by getting electrical vehicles on the road in place of gas-powered cars.” Drive Green helps people explore the list of cars and local dealerships that offer discounts.

Since the program began, 3,000 participants have taken a test drive, and 900 bought or rented electric cars, according to Vanderspek. At least 16 JP residents have gotten electric cars through Drive Green.

“I have leased two electric vehicles (Chevy Bolts) over the past four years through the Drive Green program, and with help from Costco as well!” Haskell Werlin wrote in an email. “I’m spending far less money per year than I did with my Audi, which I owned for 16 years prior to the two EVs.

“And I don’t ever waste time at Hatoffs!” Werlin, a JP resident for 42 years, added. “My clothes smell better, and bicycle riders can breathe behind my non-tailpipe!”

“I had been thinking about getting an electric car for a while,” Rebeca Plank said in a recent interview. “Drive Green helped me take the plunge.”

She said the Chevy Bolt she bought has “tremendous pick-up” and has needed no repairs and, of course, no oil changes, since she got it in 2017.

“I absolutely love it,” the 20-year JP resident said.

She echoed many when she added that “The City needs to invest in more chargers” at parking spaces as they have done in the lot behind Blanchards.

To cure “range anxiety,” she suggested putting charging stations at beaches and parks all over as well as at restaurants along highways.

“I love my Chevy Bolt,” Doris Burford said, echoing the other satisfied consumers in JP. She said the presentations and information about dealers and prices she got were “fabulous.”

For more information about buying or leasing an electric car, go to [email protected]

Green Energy Consumers actively advocates for public policies to cut GHG emissions. 

Massachusetts passed a far-reaching Clean Energy and Climate Plan in March, setting a goal of reducing the state’s carbon emissions by at least 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, 75 percent below those levels by 2040, and achieve “net zero” emissions by 2050.

Green Energy Consumers commented that the bill needed to see set a faster timeline, that it needed more details, more on implementation, and it neglected the value of public transportation in reducing carbon emissions, Vanderspek said.

Green Energy Consumers was a strong backer of the Community Choice Electric program that was instituted in Boston this past February after several years of research and preparation. It gives residents and businesses electricity sourced from cleaner sources through Eversource.

The Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI) is a promising regional movement Green Energy Consumers is championing. TCI states would charge gasoline and diesel distributors five cents a gallon between 2023 and 2032 which they would invest in green transportation. Distributors could either pass it on to customers, or consider it a cost of doing business for those nine years.

According to Vanderspek, it would cost the average driver about 45 cents per week, if the fee is passed to them.

The predicted $300 million income from TCI would go toward modernizing transportation, thereby improving health, combating climate change, and providing a “powerful tool” to right the historic wrong of overburdening low-income urban communities with GHG emissions.

In a webinar about TCI (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkvOvbxebYc) Vanderspek and Program Associate Mal Skowron, displayed a map by an MIT student that showed most drivers in eastern Massachusetts come from wide area surrounding Boston, and poorest air quality is in the cities where the fewest residents drive.

Gov. Charlie Baker has already agreed that Massachusetts will participate in TCI, along with Rhode Island, Connecticut and Washington DC. 

The state legislature ill need to pass enabling legislation for it to go into effect. Other Atlantic states are still mulling it over, Vandespek said.

With a board of 12 and a staff of 17, Green Energy Consumers sponsors a lot of helpful enterprises in addition to Drive Green.

Shave the Peak helps people save electricity when it matters the most.

Install Solar with EnergySage helps renters and owners choose a local solar company to install panels so they can reduce their electric bills.

Heating Oil Service gives users of oil heat who pay a small membership fee, get a discount on oil from local distributors. 

New England Wind Fund encourages people to make tax deductible contributions to support existing and new wind turbines.

And Green Energy Consumers does lots of educational programs about energy and energy policy. Funding comes from a variety of sources, including small commissions on sales, grants, memberships and donations.

When Green Energy Consumers Alliance began in 1982, it didn’t have that name. It mostly focused on bringing people together to get heating oil at a discount as the Heating Oil Service program does now. The organization has had several names since it began, as its mission and activities broadened and evolved. Green Energy Consumers is very active in Rhode Island as well as Massachusetts.

For extensive information on Green Energy Consumers and the group’s activities and programs, see greenenergyconsumers.org. The blog there contains useful current information, too. To contact Green Energy Consumers, call 617-397-5199 or email [email protected]

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