Becoming a Designated Green Community

The Green Community Designation and Grant Program provides a road map along with financial and technical support to municipalities that 1) pledge to cut municipal energy use by an ambitious and achievable goal of 20 percent over 5 years and 2) meet four other criteria established in the Green Communities Act. Participation in the Program has grown steadily since the first group of 35 municipalities achieved designation status in July of 2010 to include more than half of the diverse cities and towns of the Commonwealth. Nearly 89.3% of the Commonwealth's population reside in designated Green Communities. Of those 291 designated communities, 187 are also considered environmental justice communities. The benefits of designation extend beyond the program itself, inspiring cities and towns to undertake additional energy-related initiatives, improve coordination between municipal staff and departments, and increase messaging with the public at large about energy and climate-related issues and actions.

Table of Contents

Green Communities Division Overview

The GC Division provides:

Local support from Regional Coordinators

Education on benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy

Guidance and technical assistance for local energy questions and projects

Funding opportunities for clean energy projects

The Green Community Designation and Grant Program has designated two hundred ninety-one cities and towns as Green Communities. These energy leaders have accessed designation grants of nearly $53 million for energy projects.

The latest group of 3 towns designated in December 2022 have pledged energy reductions amounting to 23,188 MMBTUs over five years.

Benefits of Being a Green Community

  • Cut municipal energy costs and strengthen the local economies
  • Access grants for clean affordable and resilient energy projects; economic development benefits for the city or town and the Commonwealth
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Promote energy-efficient building construction that drives the market for better built and lower cost homes
  • Foster renewable energy and clean energy technologies
  • Become a clean energy leader and a better place to live, work, and play

Division Established by Legislation

Section 10 of Chapter 25A, which establishes the Green Community Division and Designation and Grant Program requires a specific path forward for municipalities served by municipal light plants that adopt the renewable energy charge to participate in the Program. Municipalities served by BOTH a municipal light plant and an investor-owned electric utility ARE eligible to apply for and become a designated Green Community. DOER is considering ways to maximize participation by all cities and towns in the Program that yields a mix of reduced energy costs and the environmental and economic development benefits.


Additional Resources   for Green Communities Division Overview

Criterion 1

Solar generation sited   63 municipalities report permitting 317 renewable energy projects; 99% for solar generation

One of two criteria related to renewable energy development, Criterion 1 is met by a municipality passing zoning in designated locations for the as-of-right siting of renewable or alternative energy generating facilities, research and development facilities, or manufacturing facilities.

Additional Resources   for Criterion 1

Criterion 2

New jobs and vital municipalities   Clean energy is helping to revitalize municipal centers and create jobs

One of two criteria related to renewable energy development, Criterion 2 is met by a municipality adopting an expedited process and permitting of one year at most, under which facilities interested in locating their facility in a designated renewable zone may be sited within the municipality.

Additional Resources   for Criterion 2

Criterion 3

Reaching 20% Reduction   To date, 27 communities have reduced their energy use by 20 percent or more

To demonstrate compliance with Criterion 3, municipalities must:

  1. Establish an energy use baseline inventory for municipal buildings and facilities (which can include schools, water, wastewater treatment plants and pumping stations, and open space), street and traffic lighting, and vehicles; and
  2. Adopt an Energy Reduction Plan (ERP) demonstrating a reduction of 20 percent of energy use after five years of implementation.

Additional Resources   for Criterion 3

Steps to writing an Energy Reduction Plan

  • Read the Criterion 3 Guidance document carefully
  • Contact your Regional Coordinator for helpful tips
  • Start your energy audit process by contacting your electric utility for a no-cost energy assessment
  • Set up MassEnergyInsight to establish your energy use baseline
  • Review sample energy reduction plans by other municipalities
  • Identify 15-20% of your energy baseline in documented energy efficiency measures
  • Adopt your energy reduction plan (town and/or school and/or regional school as applicable)

Additional Resources   for Steps to writing an Energy Reduction Plan

Criterion 4

Hybrids and Electric Vehicles   Purchases have increased noticeably in the past 2 years; along with installation of EV charging stations

Criterion 4 requires all departments within a Green Community to purchase fuel-efficient vehicles for municipal use, whenever such vehicles are commercially available and practicable.

To meet this requirement municipal governments and school districts must:

  • Adopt a Fuel-Efficient Vehicle Policy requiring all municipal departments and divisions to purchase fuel-efficient vehicles,
  • Develop and maintain a vehicle inventory for all four-wheeled vehicles, and
  • Provide a plan for replacing non-exempt vehicles  with vehicles that meet specified fuel efficiency ratings.

Additional Resources   for Criterion 4

Criterion 5

Stretch Code adoption   Over 90.8% of the population live in a city or town that has adopted the stretch code

Criterion 5 requires that municipalities minimize the life-cycle cost of all newly constructed homes and buildings. DOER recommends communities do this by adopting the Stretch Code (225 CMR 22 and 23). Buildings constructed to the Stretch Code use significantly less energy than buildings built to other current and previous building codes.

Additional Resources   for Criterion 5

Image credits:  George Headley

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