Patrick-Murray Administration Launches Free Program to Help Cities and Towns Track and Reduce Energy Use and Costs
New web-based tool will allow communities to ferret out energy waste, save money, and qualify for new Green Communities Grants
MassEnergyInsight, a web-based tool now available to all 351 cities and towns, provides communities with customized electricity, natural gas, and oil usage information, enabling local officials to places where their departments and buildings are wasting energy and, in the process, taxpayers' dollars. The system will help municipalities make informed, targeted decisions about energy efficiency investments. In addition, by providing municipalities with energy use benchmarking, MassEnergyInsight will help them meet one of the five criteria necessary to qualify for Green Communities Grants announced by Governor Patrick last week.
"As cities and towns across Massachusetts strive to wring as much value as possible from every tax dollar, MassEnergyInsight will be a vital tool - empowering local officials to make smart decisions that result in lower energy costs and more comfortable public libraries, municipal office buildings and schools," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles. "I encourage every community in the Commonwealth to take advantage of this valuable new service."
Developed for the DOER by Peregrine Energy Group of Boston, MassEnergyInsight will provide cities and towns with energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions data for individual buildings and departments, furthering local goals for conservation and efficiency programs and carbon emissions reduction targets. Municipalities using the system will be able to pull energy usage reports, make comparisons, and benchmark historical energy usage - all at one on-line location. DOER's four Green Communities regional coordinators will help to familiarize municipal officials with MassEnergyInsight through webinars and local training sessions. Click here for more information about MassEnergyInsight and upcoming training sessions for local officials.
Using the system will help cities and towns meet one of the five criteria necessary to qualify for Green Communities Grants: "establishing a municipal energy use baseline and a program designed to reduce baseline use by 20 percent within five years." Like the technical assistance grants DOER awarded last year to help cities and towns meet the five grant eligibility criteria, the Green Communities Grants themselves are funded with proceeds from auctions of carbon emissions permits under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). DOER will make up to $7 million in Green Community Grants available this fiscal year, with qualified communities eligible for up to $1 million each in the initial grant round.
"This will be an important tool for cities and towns actively looking to reduce energy consumption and lower their utility bills. I am pleased to see the provisions of the Green Communities Act being implemented at a time when municipalities can use our help to reduce their energy bills," said Committee on Telecommunications Utilities and Energy Co-chair Senator Michael W. Morrissey.
"I commend the Department of Energy Resources for creating the MassEnergyInsight tool to help communities across the Commonwealth implement best practices in energy efficiency in order to continue to reduce their environmental impact," said Representative Barry Finegold, co-chair of the Committee on Telecommunications Utilities and Energy. "I am excited that this program will allow the communities in my district to make informed decisions regarding energy use in schools and municipal buildings, which will help them qualify for Green Communities Grants in the near future."
"As we look to provide innovative ways to increase municipal efficiency and save cities and towns much needed funds, MassEnergyInsight has provided the first critical step in ensuring that our buildings throughout the Commonwealth remain energy efficient," said Representative Paul J. Donato, House chair of the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government.
"MassEnergyInsight is a great example of the way our government can find ways of saving money on energy costs and reducing our carbon footprint by increasing energy efficiency. I want to applaud DOER for making this tool available, and to encourage every city and town to take advantage of this opportunity," added Senator Jamie Eldridge, Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government.
As a first step in the grant process, DOER will take applications until May 14 from cities and towns seeking official Green Community status. In addition to the energy benchmarking requirement, municipalities must meet these criteria:
- adopt local zoning bylaw or ordinance that allows "as-of-right-siting" of renewable energy projects - siting that does not unreasonably regulate these uses;
- adopt an expedited permitting process related to the as-of-right facilities;
- purchase only fuel-efficient vehicles for municipal use, whenever such vehicles are commercially available and practicable;
- require all new residential construction over 3,000 square feet and all new commercial and industrial real estate construction to reduce lifecycle energy costs (i.e., adoption of an energy-saving building "stretch code").
While to date none of the Commonwealth's 351 cities and towns has met all five criteria for Green Community designation, DOER's Green Communities Division has worked closely with municipalities across the state for the past year and it is expected that several may be able to fulfill the requirements between now and the end of the traditional town meeting season this spring. Newton and Cambridge have already adopted the stretch code and it will be on the town meeting warrant of at least four towns this spring. Once cities and towns are designated Green Communities, they are eligible to apply for Green Communities Grants, with applications due to the DOER at the end of May and awards anticipated in late June.
"DOER's Green Communities Division has been impressed by the high level of interest in this program among municipalities throughout Massachusetts. We are pleased to partner with local governments not only through these grants, but also with a number of other programs designed to help cities and towns meet their clean energy goals," DOER Commissioner Phil Giudice said.
In addition to the planning assistance grants awarded to 106 communities last summer and the Green Communities Grants announced last week, DOER's Green Communities Division is reviewing applications from over 100 communities seeking a portion of approximately $14 million in Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants (EEBG) through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The federal stimulus package provided a total of $42.2 million in EEBG funding to Massachusetts cities and towns, with larger communities (population over 35,000) receiving direct grants and smaller ones funded through DOER.
Click here for more information about DOER's Green Communities Division.