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This is the first in a series of blogs about resiliency. Watch for our next post.

In October 2012, Superstorm Sandy struck the northeast with a vengeance. Over 8 million people across 20 states faced power outages of at least 24 hours, with many in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania going without power of a week or more. Many of those impacted relied on diesel generators for backup power and many were left stranded when these generators malfunctioned, were flooded, or simply ran out of fuel. Massachusetts was spared the worst of this devastation by sheer luck of the storm’s trajectory and timing.

Hurricane Irene hits Boston

Hurricane Irene hits Boston

To make sure we are not faced with the same issues when we are in the path of a major storm, the Patrick Administration’s Community Clean Energy Resiliency Initiative will provide municipalities with alternatives to diesel generators that not only eliminate the problems that arose during Sandy, but align with our greenhouse gas reduction and clean energy goals.

Governor Patrick designated September as Emergency Preparedness Month, so it seems fitting to highlight the Department of Energy Resources’ (DOER) efforts to help municipalities across the Commonwealth with emergency preparedness from the energy perspective. For us, that means using clean energy technology solutions to prepare for future impacts of climate change – that is, potential long term outages due to severe weather events.

DOER’s Community Clean Energy Resiliency Initiative recognizes that climate change-induced events impact our entire Commonwealth, with municipalities at the forefront of responding when such events occur. DOER, as part of the Administration’s climate preparedness efforts, created a $40 million grant program to ensure energy resiliency at critical facilities in municipalities by using “eligible” technologies. These can include solar photovoltaics with battery storage, black start capable natural gas or biomass-powered CHP units, anaerobic digestion systems, and energy management system upgrades to accommodate islanding renewable generation sources.

Map of projects funded by first round of grants

Map of projects funded by first round of grants

Before diving into details of the initiative, I thought it would be helpful to compare preparedness with resiliency and how DOER thinks about the two in the context of the program. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the terms are defined as follows:

  • pre•pared•ness noun \pri-ˈper-əd-nəs also -ˈperd-nəs\: the fact of being ready for something
  • re•sil•ience noun \ri-ˈzil-yən(t)s\: the ability to become strong, healthy, or successful again after something bad happens

Despite the choice of “resiliency” and not “preparedness” in the title, the initiative combines the concepts by working to allow communities to be ready for a long term outage, to have their facilities provide critical services to residents during an outage, and then be able to bounce back after an event. The projects funded through the program must

  • use eligible technology at eligible facilities: for example, shelters, public safety services, communication, transportation, and fueling infrastructure
  • place resilient systems at municipal or other public buildings (e.g. regional planning agency or a regional school or water district) to extend the capability of those facilities to provide the critical services that each is designed to provide.

So, we are looking to prepare these facilities for the worst.

Gov. Patrick at MEMA's State Emergency Operations Center in Framinghamnter

Gov. Patrick at MEMA’s State Emergency Operations Center in Framingham

The projects must also be able to operate and provide clean energy benefits on a daily basis (i.e. when there is no weather event), operate independently from a damaged grid during an event, and enable a smooth return to daily operation when the event is over. We are looking to bridge preparation with resilience.

This preparedness effort is designed to align with our climate change mitigation efforts – that is, greenhouse gas emission reductions – by relying specifically on clean energy technology. DOER is helping municipalities prepare to face the impacts of climate change with an eye towards continuing to reduce emissions and make our planet stronger and healthier.

Under the program, cities and towns were able to apply for either technical assistance or direct project implementation funding to help protect their communities. Communities that received a technical assistance award can subsequently apply for project implementation funding to carry out recommended solutions. To learn more about the initiative, please visit the DOER website.

“This initiative is about being proactive, and not waiting until the next severe storm to react,” noted Governor Patrick. “These grants will assist communities in delivering critical services to residents, keeping people safer during times of danger.”

Written By:

Renewable Energy Project Coordinator

Amy McGuire is DOER's Renewable Energy Project Coordinator and leads the Community Clean Energy Resiliency Initiative. Previously, she worked at ICF International in San Francisco. Amy has a BS in Earth Systems with a concentration in Renewable Energy from Stanford University and a Masters degree in Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy from the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University. During her time in New York, she conducted research on hybrid vehicles with the Natural Resources Defense Council. In 2013, Amy wrapped up a successful career as a professional cyclist in the U.S. and Europe, racing for a number of different teams. Not surprisingly, she bikes to work.

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