Energy is a critical resource that we rely on to go about our daily activities. Unfortunately, our energy use and energy supply is currently unsustainable and causes climate change and environmental degradation. Innovations that allow us to use energy more efficiently and switch to cleaner, renewable fuel sources that can be stored will drastically improve the sustainability of our energy systems.

This page addresses community energy use from our homes, offices, and travel. It also addresses municipal energy use, which includes City-owned facilities, schools, and streets, as well as activities like water and wastewater pumping and solid waste pick-up. 

Power plant on edge of a river with two people kayaking

Community Energy Use

Our Data

In 2012, community energy use was approximately 13,000,000 MMBTU. 

Energy from different sources is measured in different ways – electricity is measured in kWh, natural gas in therms, oil in gallons. We can convert these different measures into a common measure- million British Thermal Units (MMBTU) -to better understand and compare total energy use.
MMBTUMillion British Thermal Units

Community Energy Use

Fuels That Supply Our Cambridge Community

Most of the fuel we use in our community is natural gas. Increasing the portion of our fuel that is renewable energy will help reduce the negative impacts of burning fossil fuels.

Turbines at Block Island offshore wind farm

Block Island Offshore Wind Farm, Rhode Island
Credit: Ionna22 / CC BY-SA 4.0

Cambridge Community Electricity Program

The Cambridge Community Electricity program allows residents and businesses to support  new local renewable energy projects. Over 70% of  Eversource customers already participate. Even better, the number of customers choosing the 100% Green Plus option grew by more than 50% in 2019 and doubled in 2020!

Are you signed up? 

Cambridge Community Electricity Program

Community Energy Use

Cambridge Energy Consumption by Sector

It’s not surprising that our community’s commercial, industrial and energy industries use the most fuel. What is interesting is that the energy we use to get from place to place is lower than what we use to operate our homes.

Municipal Energy Use

Municipal Energy Use by Sector, 2008-2019

Municipal energy use measures the energy use reductions from all municipal operations including heating schools and City-owned facilities, lighting the streets, pumping water, and driving trash trucks to pick up waste.

We look at energy use by sector to determine how much energy is used in each type of operation so that we can identify opportunities for reductions. In Cambridge, like in many other cities, buildings use the majority of our overall energy consumption. The City’s efforts to reduce energy use from all sectors saves money and minimizes our impact on the environment.

Municipal Energy Use

Change in Cambridge Fuel Sources, 2008-2018

This graph shows how Cambridge has changed the fuel it uses to power our City since 2008. We have reduced our consumption of oil by 92%. Oil emits a lot of GHGs when burned, so this has reduced our emissions. Solar energy generated on the rooftops of our buildings has increased significantly, but remains a small portion of our energy supply overall.

Two people working on rooftop solar panels

Municipal Energy Use

Decreasing Energy Use & Emissions

Between 2008 and 2019, the City reduced its energy use by 17%, but the GHG emissions from energy use went down by 36%.

In addition to reducing energy use, we also switched the kind of energy we use, which reduces emissions from energy even more. For example, several municipal buildings were rebuilt to use less energy, which reduced GHG emissions.  But they also had solar installed on the roof, which produces electricity with zero GHG emissions.

Municipal Energy Use

How is the City Reducing Energy Use?

The City’s efforts to reduce energy use from all sectors save money and minimize our impact on the environment. Efforts include:

  1. Implementing energy efficiency and green building programs.
  2. Installing solar on municipal buildings
  3. Converting streetlights to more efficient LED bulbs.

Solar panels and air ducts on rooftop
LED streetlight

Did You Know?

The City converted 6,578 streetlights to LED bulbs and introduced a remotely controlled, automatic dimming schedule. This reduces the electricity used in street lighting by 80%.

Learn more about the City's streetlight conversion efforts here!
Infographic of three solar panels with suns above each, representing increase in solar power capacity over the years 2008, 2016, and 2019

Solar Power Capacity

Total kW of Solar

The publicly and privately-owned solar panels throughout Cambridge generate pollution-free electricity using a source that is in endless supply - the sun. Here we are looking at solar electricity generation capacity, which is the maximum amount of electrical power that could be produced by all of the solar panels in Cambridge under perfect conditions. Solar is growing in Cambridge and there is still a lot of untapped potential.

A kilowatt is a measure of power, or how fast something generates or uses energy. The higher a unit’s kW, the faster it uses energy. One kilowatt equals 1,000 watts.

Solar Power Capacity

Untapped Potential on Multi-family Buildings

The Cambridge Energy Alliance's Solar Advisor assessed 64 properties and identified an opportunity to add 1.2 MW of solar panels. If all these projects were developed, it would increase the total community-wide solar capacity by 15% and serve 1,670 apartment units. 

Jefferson Park apartments

Jefferson Park Apartments 
Photo: Cambridge Housing Authority

Solar Power Capacity

Solar on City Buildings

Cambridge has installed a total of 2,520 kW in solar energy capacity at city facilities. These solar panels produce enough power to drive an electric car 7.7 million miles each year!

Chart of solar capacity installed on municipal sites, surpassing the 2020 goal of 5% renewable generation.
Person working on solar panels on a rooftop

Did You Know?

As of the end of 2019, there were more than 700 public and private installations throughout Cambridge. 

1 MW of solar energy can power 164 homes!

You can view the locations of these installations here.

How You Can Help

Explore Clean Energy Options

Programs are available for residents and businesses to install solar panels on their homes or offices. If installing solar panels is not an option, you can purchase 100% renewable energy through the Cambridge Community Electricity Program, or invest in community solar!

Purchase 100% renewable energy.

Cambridge Community Electricity Program
Go solar through Sunny Cambridge.

I'm ready to go solar!
Support solar without putting panels on your roof!

Sign up for community solar

How You Can Help

Reduce Energy Use in Your Own Home

There are a lot of opportunities to reduce energy use in your own home, such as switching to LED lights, adding insulation, and buying an Energy Star water heater. 

Mass Save has a lot of information on energy efficiency.

Mass Save
Check out this Video to learn more about residential energy efficiency.

Video: Residential Energy Efficiency