Mass. Focuses on Efficiency and Renewable Power

Gov. Deval Patrick recently announced the launch of the Green Communities Program, which will help municipalities across Massachusetts cut energy bills through greater efficiency and locally generated renewable power.

The program is a component of Patrick's Massachusetts Recovery Plan, making information and technical assistance available for communities to help them prepare for and make the most of federal recovery funds targeted for energy investments.

Created by the Green Communities Act—the pioneering energy reform law enacted last year—the Green Communities Program at the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) will support local efforts that further ambitious clean energy goals. Envisioned as a way to encourage municipalities to make greener energy decisions, the Green Communities Program is mandated to offer grant and loan opportunities to municipalities in order to be designated as "green communities."

Types of assistance will include helping communities qualify for state funding by adopting local by-laws and regulations that facilitate the siting and permitting of renewable energy facilities, benchmarking municipal energy use and reducing energy consumption, purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles for municipal fleets, and taking steps to reduce lifecycle energy costs for new commercial, industrial, and residential buildings. The act allows funding of $10 million per year from the proceeds of Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative allowance auctions for the program.

Federal funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) includes $42 million in Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants to fund efficiency and renewable energy investments by municipalities. The Green Communities Program is now in the process of assigning four regional coordinators who will provide communities around the state with technical assistance on becoming Green Communities and on making choices about energy investments with federal funds.

Clean energy investments are critical components of the Massachusetts Recovery Plan, which combines state, federal and, where possible, private efforts to provide immediate and long-term relief and position the Commonwealth for recovery in the following ways:

  • Investing in the road, bridge, and rail projects that put people to work today and providing safety net services that sustain people who are especially vulnerable during an economic crisis;
  • Invest in education and infrastructure that strengthen economic competitiveness, prepare workers for the jobs of the future, and support clean energy, broadband, and technology projects that cut costs while growing the economy; and
  • Eliminating the pension and ethics loopholes that discredit the work of government and revitalize the transportation networks that have suffered from decades of neglect and inaction.