EASTHAMPTON, Mass (State House News Service) – Nine case studies of Massachusetts cities and towns that have adopted policies and programs to reduce the use of fossil fuels offer examples of how local decisions can accelerate the state’s overall progress toward 100 percent renewable energy, according to an environmental group.
The case studies of efforts in Beverly, Brookline, Concord, Easthampton, Melrose, Nantucket, Salem and two efforts in Boston are featured in “Renewable Communities 2022,” a report released Wednesday by Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center.
Many of the municipal programs involve adapting modes of transportation toward a clean energy future, like the Easthampton Police Department’s replacement of two gas-powered cars with Tesla Model Y cruisers (chosen “in part because of its five-star safety rating”) and Salem’s embrace and expansion of a bikeshare program that’s on track to have 18 stations and more than 100 bikes in circulation by early next year.
In Melrose, National Grid worked with the city to install 15 electric vehicle chargers that are promoted as the first of their kind on the East Coast — mounted 10 feet off the ground, on utility poles.
The chargers are simpler and more cost-effective to install, National Grid community solutions manager Lori Timmerman said, and their goal was “to reach hard-to-reach areas” — to get EV charging infrastructure closer to people who don’t have garages or large driveways where their cars could sit and power up.
Preferable poles for charger mounting were adjacent to street parking, and National Grid worked with the city traffic commission to classify those parking spots as “EV Only” spaces.
Environment Massachusetts state director Ben Hellerstein led off a report launch program Wednesday by noting the recent heatwave in the Boston area and that “warming climate is making these heatwaves more severe, more frequent.”
Hellerstein said a UMass Boston study found that by 2100 — within 78 years — temperatures in the Boston area could climb above 90 degrees on “anywhere between 20 to 80 days each summer.”
“And anybody who’s lived through the last couple weeks in Boston is probably just breaking into a sweat even just thinking about that right now,” Hellerstein said.
When it’s a scorcher out there, Brookline’s new Driscoll School building will be cooling off in renewable fashion. Set to open next year, the school will be equipped with ground-source heat pumps, which the town chose “as the most cost-effective and energy-efficient way to heat and cool the building without the use of fossil fuels.”
Boston’s green infrastructure director, Kate England, displayed maps during Wednesday’s event showing East Boston’s “pretty high” score on the Urban Heat Island Intensity Index. She said warm air temperatures in the urban area lead to “lots of cooling costs” for the consumer, and electricity usage that largely comes from natural gas.
The “Solarize Eastie” project launched in May with the goals of reducing both greenhouse gas emissions and energy costs while boosting solar infrastructure and access to renewable energy in East Boston.
A joint effort of the city and Chelsea-based Green Roots, the program uses “bulk purchasing to lower the cost of going solar,” provides discounts and subsidies for solar installation, and offers some building owners the alternative of “leasing their roofs to Resonant Energy and receiving a portion of the electricity generated from the solar panels as electric bill savings.”
Solar panel installation at six affordable housing units on Nantucket, electric vehicle purchase rebates provided by Concord’s municipal light plant, and center-running bus lanes on Columbus Avenue in Boston rounded out the projects lauded in the Environment Massachusetts report.