Mayor Richard Alcombright welcomes state and community representatives to City Hall for a Green Communities presentation.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — North Adams has received a Green Communities Grant of $194,580 that will help it save that and more in energy costs every year.
"All told, the five-year plan will cut energy consumption by an estimated 6,800 MBTUs, which is equivalent to taking 110 cars off the road and an estimated energy savings of $225,000 per year," said Commissioner Judith Judson of the Department of Energy Resources in the presentation at City Hall on Wednesday.
The city was one of five communities presented with certificates, big checks and signage proclaiming them the newest members of the state's Green Communities program by Judson and Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton.
North Adams' five-year plan for the money was weatherization and lighting improvements in school and municipal buildings.
The city began planning for the designation back in 2010 with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, but the project was put aside for years, said Mayor Richard Alcombright. But then James Barry, the state's Western regional coordinator, came to his office and pointed to the wind turbines out the window and referenced the city's massive solar array.
"He said, 'you ought to be ashamed of yourself,'" laughed the mayor. "You have a wonderful salesman in this guy ... he helped us blow the dust off this project."
The 7-year-old program now has 185 communities covering 64 percent of the population. Judson said this latest round is the largest with some 30 municipalities successfully meeting the criteria for Green Communities since the program began. The five communities represented at City Hall — Clarksburg, Erving, Hawley, Plainfield and North Adams — received a total of $753,570 to implement plans for greater energy efficiency and sustainability. More than $65 million in grant funding has been disbursed since through designation and competitive grant rounds since 2010.
"We have really seen first hand how our Green Communities Program can help our communities," Judson said. "It really is about saving energy, but saving energy does several things. It saves energy, it saves emissions, it saves dollars ... and the dollar savings for municipalities is then able to be used for other priorities."
Clarksburg has been working for the past year in developing the five criteria: a fuel-efficient vehicle policy, an energy reduction plan of 20 percent, green building stretch code, and by-right siting and expedited permitting for alternative energy production.
"I think that global warming is a problem that needs to be solved and being more energy efficient and thoughtful in our use of energy is going to be a legacy that hopefully leaves the next generation in a better position than we find ourselves here today," said Town Administrator Carl McKinney. "We're obviously a financially challenged community and in the long term, this is going to help rein in our expense."
Other representatives also spoke of the sometimes difficult path to the designation, the improvements they planned with the grant funds and their thanks to various citizens and public officials for their aid.
"We're self-sufficient, self-reliant and we don't like a lot of regulations," laughed John Sears from tiny Hawley.
Erving Planning Board Chairwoman Jacqueline Boyden said her town's efforts languished for awhile from opposition. But in 2016, "we were pleasantly surprised at town meeting how easy it was to pass the stretch code."
Tim Walters of Plainfield's Energy Committee got a little teary-eyed thinking of the five years it had taken to push through the process in his town of less than 600.
"Global warming is the biggest challenge to humankind in the 21st century and despite that our little town took four town meetings in five years to pass this," he said.
The state agrees that climate change is a major challenge. Beaton, who earlier in the day in Shelburne Falls had unveiled a new Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness grant program for identifying and preparing for climate related hazards, said Green Communities have an integral role in achieving sustainability goals and reducing emissions.
"Each project in a community has a cumulative effect that really actually helps us achieve our goals under the Global Warming Solutions Act (of 2008) of significant carbon reduction over a number of target years," he said. "Gov. Baker and Lt. Gov. Polito have made a very strong commitment to addressing climate change, not only on the mitigation side and the offsetting of our contribution of greenhouse gases but also adaption and resiliency. ...
"I think the Green Communities are the natural allies and the first players of our MVP program."
Funding for these grants is available through proceeds from carbon allowance auctions under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and Alternative Compliance Payments (ACP) paid by retail electric suppliers that do not meet their Renewable Portfolio Standard compliance obligations through the purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates.
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