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Green Needham Among Top Performers in NSTAR Community Energy Challenge

Thanks to Green Needham’s persistence, over 150 Needham households have lowered their utility bills by taking advantage of no-cost home energy assessments and incentives for weatherization improvements. These energy savings have made Green Needham one of the most successful participants in NSTAR’s Community Energy Challenge.

Launched in 2010, the NSTAR Community Energy Challenge aims to boost participation in Mass Save’s Home Energy Savings program by partnering with local community organizations. NSTAR offers community groups a set of energy reduction targets, and then helps groups promote Mass Save’s no-cost Home Energy Assessments. Those communities that meet their energy reduction targets receive progress awards that support their energy-related projects.

Green Needham’s efforts were so successful that in less than four months we reached 150% of our initial energy reduction target. As a result, Green Needham received a $10,800 payment from NStar to support its work in the community. Added to the initial grant provided when Green Needham initially joined the program, Green Needham has earned over $13,500 through the Community Challenge.

The idea of using local networks to promote energy efficiency was a perfect fit for Green Needham, whose focus is community-wide collaboration to make Needham a more sustainable community. Needham is just one of seven communities participating in the NSTAR Community Energy Challenge, joined by Brookline, Winchester, Cambridge, Newton, Dartmouth, and Lincoln.

The improved Mass Save Home Energy Services Program offers homeowners a wide range of energy savings services no matter what kind of fuel homeowners use for heating. Homeowners start with a complete no-cost energy assessment followed by a set of detailed energy-saving recommendations. For homeowners who choose to move forward, Mass Save will pay 75% of the cost of insulation and other approved energy efficiency improvements up to $2,000, along with no-cost air sealing in targeted areas. Mass Save offers a number of other rebates and incentives, including heating system improvements.

This past fall, Green Needham launched an ambitious community-wide campaign to promote these home energy assessments. Joining forces with Next Step Living, a participating Mass Save Home Performance Contractor, and working through extensive local networks, Green Needham was able to quickly generate awareness and enthusiasm for the program– through meetings with houses of worship, civic groups, and by creating a strong presence at dozens of fall community events, including Back to School Nights, the Needham Craft Fair, Harvest Fair, and other PTA activities. In just four short months, over 150 Needham homes had received no-cost home energy assessments and over 2,500 energy efficient light bulbs and nearly 100 programmable thermostats were installed.

Many homeowners immediately moved ahead with air-sealing, insulation, and heating system upgrades—with many more energy improvement projects in the pipeline to be completed in the coming months. The energy efficiency improvements taken by Needham homeowners this fall have already resulted in reductions of over 170,000 kWh of electricity. Translated into dollars — these energy reductions could represent as much as $30,000 in cost savings for Needham homeowners. Needham’s early success in the program placed Needham among other top performing communities in the NSTAR Community Energy Challenge, and provided Green Needham with NSTAR grant funds that can be used to expand other local energy and sustainability projects.

“The response from the Needham community has been amazing—there has been so much enthusiasm and support. Our early success validates what we at Green Needham have believed all along–that true change happens one community at a time, and that local networks are the key to creating a more sustainable community. “ – Michael Greis, Chair of Green Needham

Bolstered by its early success, Green Needham is now busy planning its next round of outreach to build even more momentum for this exciting program. Green Needham is looking for additional houses of worship, community groups, and other local organizations interested in getting involved and spreading the word among their members. Green Needham hopes that many more homeowners will take advantage of this program in 2012, joining their friends and neighbors in saving money, energy and making their homes more comfortable.

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