Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass., has designated 35 cities and towns from the Berkshires to Cape Cod as the commonwealth's first official Green Communities – a status that makes them eligible for $8.1 million in grants for local renewable power and energy efficiency projects. The projects promise to create green jobs and advance both municipal and state clean energy goals.
The signature program of the Green Communities Act of 2008, the Department of Energy Resources' Green Communities Grant Program uses funding from auctions of carbon-emissions permits under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to reward communities that win Green Communities designation by meeting five clean energy benchmarks:
– Adopting a local zoning bylaw or ordinance that allows ‘as-of-right-siting’ of renewable energy projects;
– Adopting an expedited permitting process related to the as-of-right facilities;
– Establishing a municipal energy-use baseline and a program designed to reduce use by 20% within five years;
– Purchasing only fuel-efficient vehicles for municipal use, whenever such vehicles are commercially available and practicable; and
– Requiring all new residential construction over 3,000 square-feet and all new commercial and industrial real estate construction to reduce life-cycle energy costs (i.e., adoption of an energy-saving building ‘stretch code’).
Cities and towns that qualify for the grant are Acton, Arlington, Athol, Andover, Becket, Belchertown, Cambridge, Chelmsford, Easthampton, Greenfield, Hamilton, Hanover, Holyoke, Hopkinton, Kingston, Lancaster, Lenox, Lexington, Lincoln, Lowell, Mashpee, Medford, Melrose, Montague, Natick, Newton, Northampton, Palmer, Pittsfield, Salem, Springfield, Sudbury, Tyngsboro, Wenham, and Worcester. Grants will be awarded later this month.