The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources’ (DOER) Green Communities Division named six municipal governments and regional planning authorities that will participate in a $500,000 pilot program to help local communities identify energy efficiency, renewable energy and other clean energy strategies to meet local energy needs.
The Community Energy Strategies Pilot Program will serve 16 communities, providing technical and financial assistance to these municipalities and regional planning authorities to help identify, prioritize and enable a mix of clean energy strategies.
The $500,000 comes from the Renewable Energy Trust Fund, which was created by the Massachusetts Legislature in 1998 as part of the deregulation of the electric utility market, according to a spokesman for MassCEC. The trust is funded by a systems benefit charge paid by electric ratepayers of investor-owned utilities in Massachusetts, as well as municipal electric departments that have opted to participate in the program. The average residential ratepayer pays $0.30 a month into the trust.
Participating in the pilot program are:
- Franklin Regional Council of Governments (Greenfield, Montague, Buckland and Shelburne)
- Metropolitan Area Planning Council (Hamilton, Wenham, Salem and Swampscott)
- Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (Amherst, Hadley, Holyoke, Easthampton, East Longmeadow)
The program is designed to help communities assess and evaluate clean energy investments ranging from high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment and insulation to wind turbines and solar electricity systems. The goal is to provide communities with a menu of clean energy options depending upon their unique needs and resources.
For each community, a high-level resource analysis will be conducted by a technical expert based on existing information. The analysis process is coordinated closely with and directly informs a community stakeholder and decision process managed by a facilitation consultant. Public forums will be held during each stage of the process, which will feature educational presentations on a variety of clean energy topics, briefings on work conducted to date, results, and next steps. The process concludes with a Community Energy Roadmap, which provides an inventory of the local clean energy opportunities and the strategies that will best enable them.
“Our goal is to see if this type of high-level planning can assist towns and regional authorities that are interested in pursuing clean energy and energy efficiency projects, but may not know where to begin,” said the MassCEC spokesman.