Cities and towns in Massachusetts are taking the lead in moving the state towards 100 percent renewable energy, according to a new report.

"What we found is that across Massachusetts some of the most innovative work on clean energy and energy efficiency is happening at the municipal level," said Ben Hellerstein, state director of Environment Massachusetts, which issued the report. "And it's happening in communities large and small in all parts of Massachusetts, ranging from the city of Boston to the town of Gosnold, with its 75 residents. So we really hope that officials in other communities as well as our leaders at the state level will take these examples to heart and accelerate the growth of clean energy across Massachusetts."

The report comprises a series of case studies of renewable energy programs and policies in cities and towns across the state.

"The Martha's Vineyard Transit Authorityhas made plans to transition their entire bus fleet to electric buses," said Hellerstein. "The city of New Bedford has more electric vehicles in their fleet, as a percentage of their fleet, than any other community in Massachusetts. So we're really seeing these examples of leadership coming in all parts of the state."

The report describes a bylaw in Amherstthat requires all new municipal building projects to be net-zero buildings, meaning they produce enough renewable energy to meet their annual energy consumption. In Newton, 60 percent of the energy that residents and businesses purchase comes from renewable sources.

"The town ofLexington for example, they are in the process right now building two new school buildings that are going to be completely fossil fuel free and powered entirely by solar panels that are on site," Hellerstein said.

The report highlights a Watertown solar ordinance that has become a model for a statewide proposal. "They were the first city in Massachusetts to adopt a rooftop solar requirement for some of the new buildings in town," said Hellerstein. "Since then legislation has been filed on the state level to take that policy statewide. And just a few weeks ago that bill was reported out favorably from the Energy Committee."

READ MORE: Watertown Requires Solar Panels On New Buildings, And Massachusetts Considers Following Suit Statewide

Even as the state has grown more reliant on inexpensive energy from natural gas, Hellerstein is optimistic about the move towards energy sources like wind and solar.

"In order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, we know that we need to be completely off of fossil fuels by the middle of this century, if not sooner," he said. "And for that reason it's been really discouraging to see the Baker administration push forward plans to expand fossil fuel infrastructure in Massachusetts. And the fight over the compressor station in Weymouth is just the latest example of that. The bottom line is that we need to be doubling down on renewable energy rather than investing more money in the dirty energy of the past. And the good news is that despite all of the efforts to expand gas infrastructure in Massachusetts we are seeing very real progress on renewable energy."

READ MORE: Weymouth Natural Gas Compressor Station Clears Air Quality Permit Challenge

At an event Friday to release the report, Environmental Epidemiologist Lindsey Butler, a PhD Candidate at Boston University School of Public Health, laid out the health impacts of fossil fuels.

"Air pollution from power generation is estimated to cause 53,000 premature deaths per year in the United States alone," Butler said. "This is followed closely by transportation emissions which are estimated to cause 52,000 premature deaths."

Butler said local communities in Massachusetts are making more of an effort to address these issues than the federal government.

"Places likeConcord, Amherst and Cambridgeare getting their kids to school on electric buses with zero tailpipe emissions and no diesel exhaust," she said. "Lexington is installing enough solar panels to save their community $19 million in energy costs and $8 million dollars in health expenditure."

"This is a public health crisis," said Boston's Chief of Environment, Energy, & Open Space, Christopher Cook. "When we think about the fact that climate change and the climate crisis that we're in is going to most adversely affect our most socially vulnerable populations, we can't look at our renewable energy pledges as something that may have cost barriers or may be complicated. We have to look at it as an ethical obligation to our communities."

Cook said in Boston, getting to 100 percent renewable energy will require a lot of expensive retrofitting of buildings. "Eighty five percent of what's going to be built in Boston in 2050 already exists," he said.