On the Path to a Greener Marion by Jennifer Francis and Marion's Energy Management Committee
As the price of energy continues to rise, we all look for ways to use less and save money. This is true for individuals, families, businesses, and communities. The state of Massachusetts has developed a program called the Green Communities Act to help towns do just that. It provides incentives to reduce energy costs through conservation and improved efficiency, and it encourages a transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy. When a town achieves the Green Community Designation, doors are opened to grants, funded by your tax dollars, that support further activities related to energy efficiency and reduced dependence on fossil fuels. As of this writing, 81 Massachusetts communities have been designated “Green” under this program, and the effort has played an important role in Massachusetts being ranked #1 in the United States for energy efficiency*. This is an achievement to be proud of, but so far Marion has not contributed to this success. Shouldn’t we? Marion’s Energy Management Committee thinks so, and we’ve already taken some initial steps down this path.
For a town to be designated a Green Community under this program, it must meet five criteria:
- Designate areas that are zoned for research and development related to non-fossil-fuel energy technology, or for manufacturing of these kinds of products.
- Adopt an expedited permitting process to allow enterprises to use the facility created by criterion #1.
- Develop a plan to reduce the community’s energy use by 20% over a 5-year period.
- Purchase fuel-efficient models when town-owned vehicles need to be replaced (note this does not currently apply to heavy-duty vehicles -- such as trucks, ambulances, and vans -- nor to police cruisers).
- Adopt construction regulations to minimize energy use over a building’s projected lifetime.
The Energy Management Committee has begun to gather information that will allow us to address these criteria. For example, we have assembled data for energy use in all the town’s buildings and facilities, and we engaged an energy auditor to identify ways to improve efficiency. Marion spends over $500,000 per year on electricity, oil, and gas, and we expect to find numerous ways to reduce this cost. We are also developing an inventory of town vehicles to determine which are candidates for replacement with more fuel-efficient models when the time comes.
Stay tuned for upcoming EnergyWise articles during coming months, as we will provide further details about each of the five Green Community criteria, as well as the steps Marion is taking to achieve them.