AMHERST– By a massive margin, students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst voted to pass a resolution calling for the university to move toward generating 100% of its energy from renewable sources, with 92% voting yes.
This victory represents another success in a national campaign for 100 percent renewable energy commitments on college campuses. Students are leading more than 50 campaigns in 15 states this year with the support of the Student PIRGs and Environment America.
The renewable energy ballot question was put on the ballot by the Timmy Sullivan, the Student Government President of the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
“Transitioning to 100% renewable energy isn’t just bold leadership, it’s necessary leadership. We know the science, we know the solutions, and, most importantly, we know the urgency. It’s time for our major institutions to be accountable to the rapid transition that’s required of us. In 2017,” said Student Government President Sullivan, “I was proud to introduce the Senate resolution endorsing MASSPIRG’s 100% renewable campaign back in 2017; two years later, I am proud to introduce this referendum question to include even more students in our movement.”
When the MASSPIRG Student Board of Directors voted to prioritize this campaign back in December of 2016, they weren’t sure what people might think about a big bold goal of commiting to 100 percent renewable energy and eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels.
“We weren’t sure if students and faculty would be just as compelled by this vision as we were or if they would question whether it was necessary or even possible” said Kaitlyn Mitchell, a junior natural resources conservation major at UMass Amherst, and the Coordinator for MASSPIRG’s 100% Renewable Energy Campaign at UMass Amherst.
It turns out, the support was positive. Dozens of student volunteers joined this campaign each semester and thousands have taken action since the launch of the campaign to re-power campuses and the state of Massachusetts with 100 percent clean renewable energy.
Since the spring semester of 2017 at UMass Amherst alone, MASSPIRG student organizers have educated over 5,000 students at the beginning of each semester through class presentations and tabling events, generated over 2,000 petition signatures from students on campus, and signed on over 100 faculty to endorse the campaign.
“Working with campus administration and expert faculty is really important,” said Mitchell, “we want this commitment to 100% renewable energy to become a reality. That’s why we’re working with the carbon mitigation task force; co-chaired by UMass Sustainability Manager, Ezra Small and Clean Energy Extension Director Dwyane Breger.”
The successful victory of the renewable energy ballot question at UMass Amherst this week comes on the heels of significant momentum for the national 100 Percent Renewable Campuses campaign during the past year. This fall, the University of California system announced that it would generate 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025. Starting June of this year, all 10 of UC’s campuses will also require all new buildings to run on non-fossil fuel power.
Elsewhere, Boston University, which has the largest student body of any university in Massachusetts, announced plans to purchase wind energy to meet 100 percent of the campus’ electricity consumption. Earlier this month, Brown University finalized agreements to purchase enough solar and wind energy to meet all of its electricity needs. In addition, the University of Richmond, Cornell University and Colorado State University have all made commitments to using 100 percent renewable sources.
Students across the country understand that the time to switch to 100% renewable energy is now, and that their universities are uniquely poised to lead our country’s transition to clean power.