Guide 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 and nearly two-thirds of the population. 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-related issues and actions.

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 one hundred and eigthy-five cities and towns as Green Communities. These energy leaders have accessed grants of nearly $36 million for energy projects.

An additional 25 are currently seeking designation and pledging energy reduction of xx MMBTUs.

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.

 

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Criterion 1

Solar generation sited 19 municipalities report issuing 41 permits; 90% 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.

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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 application 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.

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Criterion 3

Reaching 20% Reduction To date, 25 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.

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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)

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Criterion 4

Hybrids and Electric Vehicles Purchases have increased noticeably in the past 2 years; along with installtion 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

Criterion 5

Stretch Code adoption Nearly 72% of the population live in a city or town that has adopted thestretch code

Criterion 5 recommends that municipalities minimize the life-cycle cost of all newly constructed homes and buildings, as well as those undergoing major renovation, by adopting Massachusetts’ Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) Stretch Code (780 CMR 115.AA). Buildings constructed to the Stretch Code use significantly less energy than buildings built to other current and previous building codes.

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Image credits:  George Headley

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