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My Turn: Eliminating use of fossil fuels

  • HAZARD



Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Let’s seize the moment! Is a fossil fuel free and 100 percent renewable energy future possible? Pie in the sky? Why would we want to do this anyway?

Today, the city of Greenfield is saving over half a million dollars each year on its utility bills. That was one of the highlighted successes on May 17 when the Sustainable Greenfield Implementation Committee held a panel discussion on moving toward a fossil fuel free future.

Carole Collins, the city’s director of energy and sustainability, outlined the many successes that have been achieved through grants, not tax dollars, and reported on the amazing incentives now available for individuals to achieve their own dollar and energy savings. Eric Twarog, director of planning and development, talked about the role of planning in achieving our goals. Additionally, a draft resolution for the City Council to adopt supporting 100 percent renewable energy and a fossil fuel free future was distributed.

Some background information: In 2008, through a town-wide energy audit, Greenfield discovered we had spent $86 million that year on energy to heat, cool and light our homes and businesses, and drive our cars and buses. Furthermore, $67 million of that left our community to pay for oil, gas and electricity. Shocked by these findings, and seeing an opportunity for economic development, the city embraced goals for 2050 to: 1. reduce to zero the money leaving our community to pay for energy; and 2. reduce our climate change emissions by 80 percent. The 2014 Master Plan, Sustainable Greenfield, includes these goals, as well as the charge that city keep on track to implement this plan.

The goals of the Energy and Sustainability Department, which Carole has helped implement, include: reduce energy use; stop using fossil fuels and switch to electricity; and build solar and offer 100 percent renewable electricity to everyone at a competitive price through Greenfield Light & Power.

For example:

Lights: Grants helped the city change all outdoor lighting to efficient LED lights, reducing our energy use and cost for lighting by about 75 percent.

Buildings: When the heating system for the Davis Street school administration building failed one year before it was intended to be shut down, instead of buying an oil-fired heating system that would be discarded in a year, energy efficient air source heat pumps that deliver heating and cooling were installed and this summer will be reinstalled into the Town Hall.

Additionally, the new John Zon Community Center is the first city-built, zero-energy-ready building. It uses only electricity for its energy needs, all of which can be met by solar panels that can be installed on the roof.

Solar: A solar farm was built on the city landfill several years ago, and several other solar installations on town property are in the works.

Planners Tools: Eric Twarog, director of planning and development, talked about tools planners can use to help us move toward a fossil fuel-free future. He emphasized the importance of master plans, where residents give guidance to the town, and then talked about regulations, zoning and district designations, which can open doors to funding.

For example, last year we adopted an Auxiliary Dwelling Unit bylaw that aims to create more affordable housing that could enable elders to remain in their homes, and that could allow for more people to live near downtown where they can walk (vs. drive) to services.

Eric is now working with the Planning Board to change our parking regulations so that we don’t have oceans of unused asphalt. He’d also like to see a green building ordinance passed ensuring solar access etc.

Residents’ Role: Since municipal energy use is less than 3 percent of all the energy we use in Greenfield, we asked: what can residents do? Eric urged people to watch for and support new zoning. Carole talked about the amazing array of new financial incentives for residents. There are new and enhanced incentives for helping insulate our homes to use less energy, and also to switch to new electric heating systems. Fabulous solar incentives continue, along with new incentives to purchase cars that are powered in part or completely by electricity. Please watch the Sustainable Greenfield Facebook page as these incentives are rolled out and look carefully at Mass Save’s new offerings!

With Greenfield’s successes, new incentives and 100 percent renewable energy legislation pending in the Massachusetts and the U.S. legislatures, now is the time for Greenfield to adopt the proposed 100 percent renewable energy and fossil fuel free future resolution, that will be voted on soon at the Greenfield City Council. It reaffirms our commitment, and makes our voices heard in Boston and Washington. It is supported by SGIC, Greening Greenfield and FCCPR. Please join us in making this commitment, and go to SGIC’s Facebook page often to learn how you can reap benefits and help us achieve our goals.

Nancy Hazard is the retired
director of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA).
She can be reached at:
nhazard@WorldSustain.net.