Massachusetts energy officials tap local communities and regional planning agencies to help promote clean-energy initiatives
BOSTON – State energy officials last week announced that the city of Northampton, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission and the Franklin Regional Council of Governments will participate in a pilot program aimed at helping communities pursue clean energy initiatives through grants and technical assistance.
The Community Energy Strategies Pilot Program, administered by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center and the state Department of Energy Resources’ Green Communities Division, includes $500,000 to help a total of 16 communities identify and embrace energy efficiency, renewable energy and other green energy strategies to meet their needs.
“These grants will provide the technical and financial capacity to identify and take full advantage of local clean energy opportunities,” state Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. said.
The Pioneer Valley Planning Commission is participating in the pilot program on behalf of the towns of Amherst, Hadley, Holyoke, Easthampton and East Longmeadow, while the Franklin Regional Council of Governments is participating on behalf of Greenfield, Montague, Buckland and Shelburne.
Also taking part are the communities of Watertown and Newburyport and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, which is participating on behalf of Hamilton, Wenham, Salem and Swampscott.
State officials say the grant program is designed to help communities assess and evaluate clean energy investments ranging from high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment and insulation to wind turbines and solar electricity systems. The goal, officials say, is to provide communities with a “menu of options” depending on their needs and resources.
“We look forward to working with these communities as they work to expand their clean energy portfolio and reduce their environmental impacts,” state Department of Energy Resources Commissioner Mark Sylvia said.
“Each community is unique,” said Alicia Barton, chief executive officer of the state Clean Energy Center that was created by the Green Jobs Act of 2008. “Renewable energy projects that work for one community may not work for another, and this program will help these communities find the best projects to fit their cities and towns.”
The center’s mission is to foster growth of the clean energy industry by providing seed grants to companies, universities and nonprofit organizations. It’s also responsible for funding job training and workforce development programs and supporting the installation of renewable energy projects.
Due to the state’s dearth of traditional energy resources, Massachusetts has among the highest energy costs in the U.S. Roughly $18 billion of the $22 billion spent annually in the Bay State on energy goes to foreign or out-of-state sources, according to Sullivan’s office.
As a result of the commonwealth’s progressive clean energy policies, related industry jobs in the state jumped by more than 11 percent from 2011 to 2012, according to last year’s Massachusetts Clean Energy Industry Report.
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