As published in the Needham Times today, June 3rd, 2010.
To the Board of Selectmen:
Last summer, at the Selectmen’s Goals Summit, I urged the board to make becoming a Massachusetts Green Community one of its goals. I pointed out that many of the Selectmen’s existing goals – financial sustainability, energy savings, effective use of resources, increasing town revenue, economic development, improving health and welfare, instituting environmentally sound practices – are Green Community goals. Meeting the requirements to become a Green Community would in fact advance those goals.
Beyond those benefits, I wanted Needham to be among the first Massachusetts Green Communities so that we could take advantage of the additional funding available to only those communities. While the Green Communities program supports the efforts of all 351 Massachusetts communities to become greener, the bulk of the $10,000,000 allotted to the Green Communities program will be available only to qualified Massachusetts Green Communities through grants for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.
Further, because this funding comes from RGGI, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative cap & trade program to reduce emissions from electric power generation, it is not subject to 9C cuts or dependent on yearly legislative appropriation. Early participants face less competition for available funds, benefit from the support of state officials eager to demonstrate success and have revenue opportunities over a longer time.
Recently, the Green Communities Division of the Department of Energy Resources announced the first funding opportunity for Massachusetts Green Communities – a $7,000,000 fund that can be used to implement energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in those communities. Green Communities can apply for up to $1,000,000 in funding this spring. The prospective wind turbine and Solar PV projects at the RTS would be ideal candidates for this program.
In early April, only one community, Greenfield, had met all the requirements to become a Green Community. By the end of spring Town Meetings around the Commonwealth, over forty communities – including Lexington, Newton, Natick and Dedham – had approved the stretch energy code that positions them to apply for Green Community status. Those that are qualified this spring will be eligible to compete for the first round of grants from the $7 million. (Note: Confirmation that thirty-five communities were qualified by the DoER as Green Communities reached me just after I sent the letter to the Times.)
Needham is well positioned to join these communities. Over the last several years the work of the Green Needham Collaborative and, critically, the accomplishments of the Town through the Town Manager’s commitment to sustainability have already positioned Needham well to meet the Green Communities requirements.
Consider the list of requirements:
As-of-right Siting – Renewable/Alternative Energy
- We have had initial conversations with the Planning Board, who are open to this idea.
- We have determined that zoning the RTS for as-of-right renewable energy generation would meet this criteria. The fact that this parcel is town-owned reduces the anxiety over as-of-right siting since the community retains control over development.
- The projects considering the feasibility of wind power and solar PV at the RTS are live examples of how this designation would work.
- The Planning Director has indicated that our existing processes are well-positioned to meet this requirement once the as-of-right siting is in place.
Energy Baseline / 20% Energy Reduction Plan
- The Town has completed an energy baseline.
- The Town Manager and Superintendent have already jointly committed to reducing energy use by 5% in FY 2010.
Purchase only Fuel Efficient Vehicles (when such vehicles are commercially available and praticable)
- The Town already focuses on fuel efficiency in vehicle purchasing.
- The Town has recently begun purchasing hybrid vehicles.
Adopt Energy Stretch Code (Minimize Life Cycle Costs)
- There is persuasive evidence of the modest up-front cost and the significant life-cycle cost savings for building owners and homeowners under this extension to the state’s building code.
- We must successfully make this argument to the community.
You can see from this list how well-positioned we are. Consider the impact of receiving $1,000,000 toward a wind turbine, a solar photovoltaic installation or a major energy efficiency retrofit of a town or school building. Your commitment to action is now critical. I urge you to move with all deliberate speed to have Needham join the ranks of qualified Massachusetts Green Communities.
Chair, Green Needham Collaborative