Opinion: Marion uses less energy, saves money
For a little town like Marion, $1,200,000 is serious money.
The Energy Management Committee (EMC) attended the October 18th meeting of the Select Board to celebrate a decade of progress toward its mission of reducing Marion’s dependence on fossil fuels and saving energy costs. To date the EMC has led efforts garnering nearly $700,000 in grants for projects to increase municipal energy efficiency, and the committee negotiated a plan that has saved over $500,000 in electricity costs.
Long-time resident and EMC member Bill Saltonstall began the report to the Select Board by recalling Marion’s journey to become a Massachusetts Green Community, a program to incentivize municipalities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and in doing so, save precious tax dollars. The five-step process began in 2014 and took five years to achieve. Multiple votes at town meetings were required to meet all five requirements: 1) creating a solar overlay district encompassing 50 acres at the end of Benson Brook Road, 2) passing a new bylaw that provides by-right development of renewable energy projects within that district, 3) adopting the state’s “stretch” building code that increases energy efficiency in any new construction, 4) promising to purchase energy-efficient municipal vehicles, and 5) achieving a 20% reduction in municipal energy use over five years. Designation as a Green Community opened the spigot to state grant money to pay for energy-saving projects that has totaled nearly $700,000 to date. These grants paid for LED lighting and improved ventilation in Sippican School, replacement of oil-fueled boilers in fire stations, various energy-saving upgrades to the library, heat-pumps in the Town House, and many others.
Did you know that 90% of Marion’s municipal electricity is supplied by the four wind turbines in Plymouth located along route 25? In 2012, EMC began negotiating a power purchase agreement to buy 20 years of clean electricity at a ~22% discount from the regular price. Since the turbines were erected in 2017, Marion has saved over $500,000.
And that’s not all. The EMC worked with state programs to replace all of Marion’s streetlights (~300) with LED bulbs, which not only provide improved lighting but also save the town about $16,000 per year. Marion’s police department purchased its first hybrid cruiser, and several town employees have been driving electric or hybrid cars since 2016. Three charging stations were installed to charge them, and they’re available for free charging by the public, as well. The municipal car leases and charging stations were all funded by state grants initiated by the EMC. The committee was also instrumental in crafting the town’s solar bylaw, facilitating the construction of two community solar arrays, and promoting residential solar systems (~200 to date). The EMC continues to push for energy efficiency in all new construction, including the planned DPW and harbormaster buildings, housing developments, and other projects. The efforts to date have reduced municipal energy consumption substantially, well on our way to achieving the 20% goal for Green Communities but still far from the state-legislated mandate of 50% by 2030 and net-zero by 2050.
Would you like to help save energy costs, reduce carbon emissions, and accelerate Marion’s transition to clean, renewable energy sources? Then please consider applying to join the Energy Management Committee. Be part of the solution!
The members of the Marion Energy Management Committee,
Jennifer Francis, Christian Ingerslev (chair), Bill Saltonstall, Tom Friedman, Alanna Nelson, and Eileen Marum