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The word is out that Massachusetts is a national leader in clean energy.The Commonwealth has been number one in energy efficiency since 2011 and the state met the Governor’s goal for 250 megawatts of installed solar electric (photovoltaic or “PV”) capacity four years early. The lesser known story is that leadership at local levels — in cities and towns — has been central to that success.

As recently as 2009, only a small percentage of Massachusetts cities and towns were keeping an eye on municipal energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Fewer still were pursuing renewable energy. For example:

  • Fifty-nine of Massachusetts’ 351 municipalities participated in EPA’s Community Energy Challenge to use efficiency improvements to reduce by 10 percent their “energy use intensity” (total energy consumed in one year divided by the total building floor space).
  • A small portion tracked energy consumption through EPA’s ENERGY STAR® Portfolio Manager system or other energy-tracking software tools.
  • Residential solar was a rarity; in 2007 there were only 3 MWs of solar PV capacity installed statewide in all sectors.

Today, the municipal energy landscape is vastly different. Guidance and incentives from Patrick-Murray Administration policies and programs, together with the expanded Mass Save® programs, has energized municipal and school officials to take action. The results have been dramatic.

  • 110 cities and towns, covering almost half the Commonwealth’s population, went through a rigorous, five step process — which includes adopting a formal 20 percent energy reduction plan — to be designated as one of the “Green Communities,” eligible for state grants and other programs. Further, over a third of municipalities have adopted the “Stretch Code,” which requires new buildings — public or private — within a city or town to be 20 percent more efficient than required by the existing “base energy code.”
  • Sixty-eight percent of cities and towns, representing 80 percent of Massachusetts residents, now measure and benchmark energy consumption of municipal, school and regional entities’ buildings within the municipality. Through MassEnergyInsight®, a no-cost, web-based tool offered through the Department of Energy Resources, it’s now easier to make sound decisions and take actions to maximize energy efficiency.
  • The power of local clean energy leadership inspired SolarizeMass®, a partnership between cities and towns, DOER and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, to increase adoption of solar electric power by home and business owners. In 2012, 748 residents and business owners in seventeen communities signed contracts to install over 4.8 MW of solar electricity. The number of small-scale solar electricity projects in each community will more than double as a direct result of the program. That success led to 2013 SolarizeMass, just launched.

Growing involvement in clean energy by cities, towns and schools is contributing to an ever-increasing portion of Massachusetts’ march to a clean energy future.

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