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Mothers Out Front urges residents to consider ‘green energy’ options



Thursday, January 22, 2015
AMHERST — As a person concerned about the future health of the planet, Alisa Pearson was worried that renting her home in Pelham would make it impossible to be a good environmental steward by investing in energy-efficiency upgrades or installing solar panels.

So when Pearson learned last year about the Massachusetts Energy Consumers Alliance — a non-profit organization building infrastructure for wind, solar, hydro and anaerobic digestion power sources — and that Western Massachusetts Electric Co. customers could switch to this power, she jumped at the chance.

“I couldn’t believe that for me, as a renter, I could have green energy come to my house,” Pearson said.

A member of Mothers Out Front, a statewide group advocating for a livable climate, Pearson is one of about 200 members throughout the Pioneer Valley who are encouraging utilities to offer households the opportunity to make a similar switch.

The local community organizing team has focused much of its recent push on getting households served by WMECO to switch to ensure that power is being generated by clean and local sources, rather than coal, natural gas or nuclear power.

“It’s really a key to divest from fossil fuels,” Pearson said.

The nearly two-year-old statewide organization has had a Pioneer Valley chapter since March.

Karen Ribeiro of Pelham, who is also a member, said the options for the switch are either New England Wind, which is entirely wind-generated power and adds 3.8 cents per kilowatt hour to the typical bill for WMECO customers, or New England GreenStart, a mix of wind, hydro, solar and digester gas, that adds 2.4 cents per kilowatt hour. The average monthly bill will rise between $14 and $24.

That increase in the rate is tax deductible because it benefits Mass Energy’s work toward creating a renewable infrastructure.

Mothers Out Front is hoping to raise more awareness about Mass Energy. Pearson said volunteers are meeting as many people as possible. “We’ve taken it upon ourselves to talk to individuals,” Pearson said.

They also know that it can be overwhelming for people to contact their utility and make the change, and Mothers Out Front can assist. “Who better than mothers to help out?” Ribeiro asked.

So far, 515 households have switched to Mass Energy power statewide, with 68 in Amherst, second only to Cambridge, Ribeiro said.

In Amherst, there is an additional incentive to make the switch by Jan. 31. For each household which remains in the program for 15 months, Amherst will get $40 that will be used toward renewable energy projects.

Pearson said she joined Mothers Out Front because of its advocacy for the future.

“This gives a forum with concrete solutions,” Pearson said. “It’s about amplifying the call for bold action on climate change.”

She also appreciates that most are committed volunteers who have other occupations. “One thing we can develop well is how to be active and still be a volunteer,” Pearson added.

The local chapter holds its business meetings weekly at the All Things Local Cooperative in Amherst and has had get-togethers at homes in Amherst, Northampton and Leeds. Many of the group’s local members are in Hampshire County, with others in Leverett, Shutesbury, Montague and Greenfield.

Besides opportunities to participate in climate rallies and assist other groups working on similar goals, such as Climate Action Now!, the women have gotten to see first-hand how local green energy is produced, including an anaerobic digester in Ware and a windmill in Charlemont,

Each week, the group tries to motivate its members to do something green-oriented, such as writing a legislator or scheduling a home audit. “It’s the one action each week that helps flex the muscle,” Ribeiro said.

Ribeiro said it is important to act soon. “As parents deeply concerned about the future, we know there is no time to waste,” Ribeiro said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.