Grassroots Movement in East Hampton
In May of 2014, my hometown of East Hampton, New York, voted to adopt a remarkable goal: committing to 100 percent renewable energy. The proposal, called the Comprehensive Energy Vision, was put forward by the Town of East Hampton Energy Sustainability Committee, under my leadership as chair. With this Vision, East Hampton resolved to use 100 percent renewable energy for electricity, transportation, and heating fuels by 2030. Although other towns and municipalities in California had made this commitment, we were the first town on the East Coast to set such a goal.
We are already well on our way to achieving this goal. The state of New York has approved the addition of fifteen wind turbines for the east end of Long Island. Between those wind turbines and the Solarize East Hampton campaign, we will be able to meet our goal of having 100 percent renewable energy in our electrical grids.
But our goals have spurred change far beyond the borders of East Hampton. It didn’t take long at all for our grassroots movement to spur change in our area. Soon after we made this goal for East Hampton, Southampton followed with their own goal of 100 percent renewable electricity. From there, the ripple effect continued to grow. Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York at the time, and his brother would come and summer in the Hamptons. When he saw East Hampton and Southampton make these goals, he decided the entire state should do the same, and set about creating a renewable energy goal for the whole state: 70 percent renewable electricity by 2030, and an emissions-free electric sector by 2040.
The goals set by East Hampton and Southampton have also spurred multiple green infrastructure projects which are now in various stages of approval. New York has given out leases to companies to build wind farms off the south coast of Long Island, including Statoil, now called Equinor, a Norwegian energy company that is reinvesting its oil revenues into developing offshore wind. Deepwater Wind also secured some offshore leases from the federal government, then later sold those leases to Ørsted, the largest energy company in Denmark, and one of the largest installers of offshore wind farms in the world. We now have one of the largest offshore wind projects in the U.S., and one of the largest concentrations of offshore wind farms, all off the coast of Long Island. These wind farms generate energy that will replace the coal- and oil-powered plants we have now.
All of these changes were sparked by our community of East Hampton setting our renewable energy goal. A town or municipality sees what a neighboring town or municipality is doing and says, “We want to do that too.” It spreads and spreads until you have multiple municipalities throughout the state making these goals, which then puts pressure on the state government to make statewide goals. When states start making these goals, it puts pressure on the federal government to make national goals as well. This is the kind of positive chain reaction grassroots movements can create.
Learn more about what’s possible with a consumer-centric, competitive advantage-based solution to the climate crisis in my book, Decarbonize the World.