Meg Lusardi, deputy director of the Green Communities Division of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER), presented The Green Communities Program – Partnering with cities and towns at a gathering hosted by Sustainable Sudbury (SudburyEDC.org) on Tuesday, March 10 at the Sudbury Senior Center, 40 Fairbank Road. The Green Communities Act was enacted by the Massachusetts Legislature in July of 2008, and represents landmark energy legislation in the United States.
Why become a Green Community? “The requirements are not a low bar,” said Lusardi, but there are real benefits, including energy and cost savings, environmental benefits, reduction of greenhouse gases and recognition. And, there’s the potential for Sudbury’s receipt of substantial development grants.
“As a Green Community you will be recognized as a sustainability leader in the Commonwealth,” said Lusardi.. The legislation was a collaborative effort, and brought together the Legislature, public utilities, advocacy groups and Patrick administration to achieve consensus. he Green Communities Act created the Green Communities Division of the DOER. The Green Communities Division serves as a resource hub for energy related matters for municipalities. It will serve as a resource of information on all existing and forthcoming energy conservation, generation, management and grant programs.
The Green Communities Act created a new, landmark program for municipalities in Massachusetts, the Green Communities Grant and Loan Program. Qualifying communities will be eligible for grants from an initial fund pool of up to ten million dollars. The funding source for this program are proceeds from the regional greenhouse gas initiative (RGGI) auction, and are not a portion of the state budget. The Act lists the qualification criteria and will encourage smaller communities to join with others for grant applications. The application criteria include the following:
The municipality must adopt an “as-of-right-siting” zoning bylaw in designated locations for renewable energy generating facilities, renewable energy research and development facilities, or renewable and alternative energy manufacturing facilities. The Division will be developing model bylaws to clarify this requirement; the model bylaw for wind generation equipment siting has been developed and is available on the DOER’s Web site. Large scale PV and biomass plant model bylaws are forthcoming. The Commonwealth will be encouraging communities to construct renewable generation facilities and will show preference for applications including renewable generation.
The municipality must adopt an expedited local permit process of no more than twelve months for the as-of-right-siting projects.
The municipality must create a baseline energy model for its buildings and other municipally-owned energy consuming equipment, such as street lighting. The municipality must implement a program to reduce energy by a minimum of 20 percent from this baseline within five years.
The municipality must purchase only fuel efficient vehicles. Vehicle performance targets are available on the DOER’s Web site. Exempted equipment includes DPW, and fire-fighting vehicles..
All new residential construction with an area greater than 3,000 square feet, and all new commercial and industrial construction will be required to minimize its life-cycle energy cost. The parameters for the lifecycle costing are yet to be finalized. Currently the Board of Regulation Standards (BBRS) is developing a “stretch energy code” which will be available for adoption by municipalities. Public hearings on the provisions of the code are currently being conducted and the code will be finalized in next month. The residential portion of the code is based on the well-established Energy Star Homes program which has been supported and incentivized by utilities. The commercial portion is based on the Core Performance Program criteria. The benefits of adoption of these codes will be standardization among the contractor community and greatly reduced building lifecycle energy costs.
The Green Communities Program application process is currently in development. The initial step was to issue a formal request for information (RFI) to all municipalities in the Commonwealth to determine what the level of interest is and what projects are in development. This Next, communities will apply for grants for projects which will reduce utility and fossil fuel consumption. A wide variety of programs will qualify for grants; examples will range from infrastructure development to community education outreach. The Town of Sudbury has responded to the RFI.
Regional coordinators will be hired to assist community’s process start-up. Software tools are being developed to support the effort, such as the forthcoming Energy Information Reporting System software. The software is currently in pilot phase and an RFR has been issued for roll out of the software to all municipalities. The software will automate the download of energy billings from utilities and provide ongoing tracking for the building’s energy performance.
Lusardi’s presentation is available at http://sudburyedc.org/files/GreenCommunities.ppt.