After a decade of serving on the Boston City Council, Matt O’Malley has transitioned out of the role and into a new one as the Chief Sustainability Officer at Boston-based Vicinity Energy.
“I’m very proud of my work in the environmental movement,” O’Malley told the Gazette.
When he was first elected to the City Council in 2010, he was assigned the Environmental Committee, which he continued to chair for 11 years. He said some of the highlights of his accomplishments over the years include offering paperless pay stubs for city employees for the first time, the gas leaks bill, curbside composting, the wetlands and plastic bag ordinances, Community Choice Energy, and the Building Energy Reduction and Disclosure Ordinance (BERDO), which he said he is most proud of.
O’Malley said that he initially had concerns about transferring to the private sector.
“I worried going from the Council to the private sector that I would somehow not have the same fast-paced work environment,” he said. But he’s discovered that his new job is “as fast paced,” if not moving even more quickly.
Though he had received other job offers, O’Malley said that after having lunch with Vicinity Energy CEO Bill DiCroce, he was “so impressed with his visionary leadership.”
Vicinity Energy is a district energy company that operates a steam plant in Cambirdge’s Kendall Square and uses steam to create energy for hospitals, hotels, and even Boston City Hall, O’Malley said. The energy is used to heat, cool, and create hot water in these types of buildings.
“It’s old infrastructure,” he said, explaining that the pipes are 100 years old. At first, the plant was powered by coal, then oil, then natural gas, but now runs on LR100, which is essentially cooking oil, he said. Oil waste is collected from restaurants and reused to create the steam.
O’Malley’s role at Vicinity Energy is “helping to oversee the decarbonization of our company,” he said.
“We don’t have the luxury of time to figure this out. We’re actually doing the work now,” he said. He said that by the end of the decade, there will be a “substantial, stunning drop in greenhouse gas emissions.”
O’Malley said that what he learned during his time on the City Council is proving to serve him well in his new role. A major thing he’s learned is to “be willing to compromise, but never, ever abandon your principles. We only have one choice—that’s to be bold on climate. Vicinity is doing it.”
He said his goals for the role are to “do well by my boss, colleagues,” and “to be able to continue to work for partnerships.”
On the City Council, O’Malley was able to organize and partner with many organizations, and he hopes to do the same with Vicinity and to “build as wide a coalition as possible.”
He said that with a year and a half old daughter, it’s important for him to leave the planet in the best possible shape. “We have no other choices,” he said.
“We’re a coastal city,” he said. “We see the effects of climate change right off the bat.” He said that “as it relates to climate, the city is in very good hands,” and he will continue to ensure the implementation of BERDO “is handled well.”
He praised Mayor Michelle Wu for her involvement in climate issues as well. “I think we’re in a good place,” he said. He also said he looks forward to keeping Boston “on this trajectory of national leader. That’s one of the things I really look forward to.”
O’Malley was born and raised in Boston, and he and his wife are choosing to raise their daughter here as well. “We love these neighborhoods,” he said. He said he will continue his involvement with local environmental groups and nonprofits.
“What I love about District 6,” O’Malley said, is that it “reflects the vibrancy of our city and country. Everyone may not agree on every issue, but it’s a great place to live, work, and raise a family.”