Post Content

Winchester “now identifies itself as a town that saves energy,” according to Energy Conservation Coordinator Susan McPhee.
Organizing an energy committee is a key step for cities and towns seeking to implement more effective clean energy and energy efficiency improvements. The energy management committee for this town of about 21,000 is a case in point. McPhee said that her town established the committee in 2005 because the energy portion of the municipal budget was “getting out of control.”

Winchester’s energy management committee includes 11 people – four staff (including McPhee) and seven volunteers from the community. The committee’s many initiatives have resulted in annual savings to the town of $643,000. These initiatives include a unit air conditioning policy, idling reduction policy, computer use savings measures, and an energy efficient building policy.

When I interviewed her, McPhee emphasized the importance of communication to the success of the Winchester energy management committee. The committee, McPhee told me, has kept the Winchester community informed of energy initiatives through an annual “touch-base” with the other committees in Winchester, and through local TV and newspaper coverage. Quantifying energy savings in dollars, and sometimes characterizing those dollars in terms of teachers’ salaries, has proven an effective means to win public support for the work of the committee, according to McPhee.

For other Massachusetts cities and towns considering establishing an energy committee, DOER has several recommendations. First, ensure that the energy committee consists of both municipal officials and people outside of government. Integral team members may include: an experienced energy specialist or engineer; representatives of the facilities maintenance department, finance department, local utility, mayor’s office, Board of Selectmen, city/town council, and/or municipal manager’s office; interested citizens. Government members and energy specialists may provide essential information, expertise, and training. Individuals from outside of the government can contribute diverse perspectives and help the committee to engage the broader community.

Experimenting with the structure of an energy committee may enhance its effectiveness. For example, Winchester reduced the size of its committee, allowing it to function more effectively. Establishing an energy committee can help municipalities to realize their local clean energy potential. DOER’s Green Communities Division and its regional coordinators are here to help towns and cities take this important first step.

Written By:


Ginny is working as a summer intern for the Green Communities Division in DOER. She recently graduated from Colby College in Waterville, Maine, where she majored in environmental studies with a policy concentration. In the fall, Ginny will be entering the Master in Urban Planning program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Ginny is originally from Concord, MA. She ran track in college, and running continues to be one of her favorite pastimes.

Tags: , ,

Recent Posts

Carbon Neutral? A Closer Look at University Claims posted on Aug 14

Carbon Neutral? A Closer Look at University Claims

The five UMass university campuses have made enormous progress towards carbon neutrality. In particular, UMass Amherst has demonstrated impressive environmental leadership and received an Energy and Environmental Affairs’ Leading by Example award for achieving a 26 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions three years ahead of its 2012 goal.

Door-to-Door Campaign Reaps Energy Efficiency Gains posted on Aug 1

Door-to-Door Campaign Reaps Energy Efficiency Gains

Greenfield sent program specialists from Energy Smart Homes door-to-door to answer questions, explain the energy auditing process, and plan retrofit projects. So far, home energy assessments in Greenfield have taken place at four times the statewide rate.

Market-Based Program Designed to Continue Solar Growth posted on Jul 30

Market-Based Program Designed to Continue Solar Growth

This April, the Commonwealth launched its second Solar Carve- Out Program. Built on the success of the first solar carve-out program, SREC II is designed to continue to drive Massachusetts’ solar growth and particularly provide incentives for smaller solar projects, building mounted units, community shared solar, solar canopies, emergency power and low income housing.