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Massachusetts Cities & Towns on Energy Efficiency Path

March 15, 2010

Following the United Nations (UN) Climate Change Conference held in December in Copenhagen, the United States pledged to cut our 2005 greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent by 2020, depending on current domestic climate change legislation. According to, climate change legislation was “buried under record snowfall in the capital,” during last month’s historic snow.

But in Massachusetts, progress moves forward, despite the weather. “Over 100 communities are actively seeking Green Communities designation,” said Joanne Bissetta, Massachusetts Green Communities Northeast regional coordinator.

Green Communities designation enables each city and town in Massachusetts to apply for more than $10 million in annual funding generated through our region’s cap and trade emissions market, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Annual Green Communities’ funding will help cities and towns on a greener energy path to implement additional carbon reduction projects. The state of Massachusetts is currently taking designation applications, which can be downloaded on the MA Green Communities Web site, through May 14, 2010.

Some communities are further along than others, Bissetta noted, and being designated a Massachusetts Green Community is challenging. For example, becoming a Massachusetts Green Community requires acceptance of a zoning ordinance called the “Stretch Code.” Seminars are being hosted by the Massachusetts Municipal Association across the state to help advise and explain how the code works and how to implement it within current community bylaw. “The goal is to educate as many people as possible,” said Bissetta.

In addition to the seminars, the state Green Communities Program under the Department of Energy Resources rolled out a powerful free software tool that cities and towns can download and use to better understand their energy usage. Rather than timely data entry, the software enables city staff to download utility bill data and generate reports that show cities “how much energy they are using and to see how their buildings are performing,” said Bissetta. This tool will help cities benchmark the energy performance of its public buildings, a requirement of Green Communities Designation.

Citizens can help their cities and towns learn more and prepare to apply for designation by joining a local energy committee or task force—or by starting one. “Cities don’t always have the staffing resources…volunteers can help advise cities and towns on energy efficiency opportunities,” said Bissetta.

For more information about the Green Communities program, read my article

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