On March 31, Massachusetts Department of Energy Resource (DOER) Commissioner Judith Judson awarded over $1.3 million in Green Communities designation grants to seven Bay State municipalities.
This round of grants was presented to Bolton ($141,060), Fitchburg ($306,265), Southborough ($142,865), Winchendon ($176,245), Charlton ($166,570), Southbridge ($206,130), and Northbridge ($176,515).
The Massachusetts legislature passed The Green Communities Act in 2008 as a means to increase investment in clean energy and prioritize energy efficiency. Each designated community must meet the following criteria:
- Provide as-of-right siting (that is, sites chosen may be developed for the intended purpose described in the bylaw without the need for a special permit, variance, amendment, waiver, or other discretionary approval) in designated locations for renewable/alternative energy generation, research and development, or manufacturing facilities;
- Adopt an expedited application and permit process for as-of-right energy facilities;
- Establish an energy use baseline and develop a plan to reduce energy use by 20 percent within five years;
- Purchase only fuel-efficient vehicles; and
- Set requirements to minimize life-cycle energy costs for new construction ( e.g., adopt the new Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) Stretch Code).
To date, the state has named 185 Green Communities – ranging geographically from the Berkshires to Cape Cod, and in size from Boston to Rowe – which are home to 64 percent of its population.
The state says the program has supported its original claims that it would benefit the state economy and support new jobs. Indeed, on its site, the program claims, “The GCA’s impact can be seen in the 64,000 clean energy jobs in the Commonwealth, from weatherization technicians to photovoltaic engineers, or in Massachusetts’s move from 47th in the nation in job creation in 2006 to fifth in the nation in the last two years, and an economy that is growing faster than the national growth rate. The act does this by supporting policies that address energy efficiency, renewable portfolio standards, net metering, and designated green communities.”
Since the program began in 2010, DOER’s Green Communities division has awarded more than $65 million in grant funding to the state’s cities and towns through designation and competitive grant rounds.
“The Green Communities program is an excellent example of how state and local governments can work together to save taxpayer money and promote responsible energy policies,” said Governor Charlie Baker (R). “Our newest Green Communities will now have additional resources to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy, locking in energy savings for residents and reducing their carbon footprints.”
“I want to congratulate Bolton and Fitchburg on receiving their Green Communities designations,” said State Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan (D-Leominster). “These funds create an opportunity for cities and towns to continue development of clean energy infrastructure that will generate smart investments for renewable and efficient energy for generations to come.”
Funding for these grants is available through proceeds from carbon allowance auctions under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and Alternative Compliance Payments (ACP) paid by retail electric suppliers that do not meet their Renewable Portfolio Standard compliance obligations through the purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates.