In December, Gov. Charlie Baker announced that 25 new cities and towns had been accepted into the state’s Green Communities program, an initiative that provides grants to municipalities that adopt a series of energy efficiency policies and set a goal of reducing their energy consumption by 20 percent within five years.

“We’re constantly looking at ways for businesses to use energy as effectively as they can,” says Dan Burgess, deputy commissioner at the state’s Department of Energy Resources (DOER). “Massachusetts’ businesses have embraced energy efficiency for its residents.”

According to the 2017 Massachusetts Clean Energy Report, the Commonwealth has been ranked number one in energy efficiency for seven years in a row.

Brookline was one of the first Green Communities selected and awarded funds as part of the initiative. Since then, Brookline has used more than $808,000 in grant funding for projects including converting streetlights and exterior building lights to LEDs, conducting a solar energy feasibility study and installing electric vehicle charging stations.

“There are currently nine projects in Brookline that are benefitting from the $233,000 Green Communities 2017 grant award, saving the town over 120,000 kWh annually,” says Maria Morelli, senior planner for climate action & land use in Brookline’s Department of Planning and Community Development. “The projects are completed except for the LED Streetlight project, which should be finished in March.”

Putterham Library
Coolidge Corner Library
Baker School
Heath School
Brookline Village Area
Centre Street East public parking
Kent & Webster public parking lot
Fuller Street public parking lost

Lamp and Ballast (retrofit)
Lamp and Ballast (retrofit)
ECM Kitchen Exhaust
ECM Kitchen Exhaust
ECM Kitchen Exhaust
54 57 LED Streetlights Retrofit – multiple streets
Electric Vehicle Charging Station – Level 2, dual port
Electric Vehicle Charging Station – Level 2, dual port

Brookline also received a Municipal Energy Technical Assistance (META) grant in 2014. A small dollar grant, META helps Green Communities on the technical side of designing clean energy projects. Towns will get a chance to work with professionals and consultants in the renewable energy industry to further improve their communities.

As deputy commissioner, Burgess has watched Green Communities in Massachusetts thrive under this initiative for the past eight years. He’s impressed not only in how they’ve reshaped their communities, but in the successful collaboration they’ve built between their towns to accomplish their goals.

“It’s exciting to see the municipalities work so well together using best practices and having the regional coordinators truly learn from one another.”

Municipalities across the Commonwealth are critical partners in helping Massachusetts meet its climate goals. With more than 200 communities across the state taking steps to become more energy efficient, the combined impact can be significant.

Since the program launched in 2010, it has awarded more than $85 million in competitive grants statewide for more than 550 lighting upgrades, 350 weatherization projects, 4,875 heating and ventilation upgrades and other projects, according to the Department of Energy Resources.

Job growth in New England has also increased in the renewable energy sector. “There are over 100,000 clean energy jobs in Massachusetts,” Burgess says, “which has gone up since the Green Communities program started in 2010.”

With the addition of the new communities joining the program — including Abington, Canton, Duxbury, Franklin, Middleboro, Plainville, Sharon, Stoneham, Waltham and Wellesley — there are now 210 Green Communities in Massachusetts with 68 percent of the state’s population now lives in a Green Community.

When a city or joins the program, it must undergo a baseline energy audit, which is used to determine its current energy use and future goals. The community must also adopt an expedited permitting schedule for renewable energy generation facilities, commit to purchasing only fuel-efficient municipal vehicles and adopt a building code that sets stricter energy efficiency requirements on new construction.

New Green Communities are given an initial grant award for energy efficiency projects, and they are eligible to apply for additional competitive grants in the future.

The program’s 2017 progress report, the most recent available, found Green Communities had saved enough energy to power and heat 17,100 homes over seven years. The program is projected to result in reductions in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 37,000 cars off the road for a year.
If the 25 new Green Communities hit their five-year energy goals, they will save enough additional energy to heat and power 2,302 homes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to taking 4,975 cars off the road.

So what’s next on Massachusetts’ Clean Energy Crusade?

“There’s a lot happening,” Burgess says. “We are very busy implementing recent legislation around clean energy procurements that the distribution companies are running that will reduce clean energy — offshore wind procurement, looking at the solar initiative, new tech as energy storage — so it’s an exciting time.”

By Sophia Marie