Last month, the community of Northampton held its first Clean Energy Community Strategy meeting, a “101” meeting of sorts to introduce Northampton residents to the Clean Energy Strategy Program (CESP) developed by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center in collaboration with DOER’s Green Communities Division. CESP is a pilot program that so far has had great success working with communities to guide brainstorming for clean energy solutions in the community arena and share resources to inform implementation.
As the federal government remains in partisan gridlock on environmental issues, state and local governments have stepped up and created change. The Community Energy Strategies Program harnesses the drive of community members to, through cleaner energy options, save money and improve the quality of health in their living spaces. Participating thus far: Newburyport, Watertown, the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (Buckland, Shelburne, Montague, and Greenfield), the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (Hamilton, Wenham, Salem, and Swampscott), and the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (Amherst, Hadley, Holyoke, and Easthampton), as well as Northampton.
At the “101” meetings, each community commits to following the general steps:
- engage stakeholders
- identify goals and opportunities that have worked for other communities and will be right for their own community
- perform technical analyses of goals and available resources
The meeting then breaks into smaller groups to brainstorm. Each group is autonomous. Some focus on smaller issues and wrap up with broader goals, while other groups start with broad goals and then talk about how to realize those goals with steps — all with guidance from a mediator who records the ideas on a pin board.
Questions that arose within the Northampton group included the price of energy for potential businesses, how to work with and improve existing programs, and how to help consumers make the clean energy decision at the crucial moment of sale. Terms like “education,” “decision,” “choice,” and “communication” were ubiquitous.
Stay tuned for Northampton’s next-steps “201” CESP forum on October 9.