'Green' Marion would reap financial benefits

Feb 10, 2018

To the Editor:

Over the past several years, Marion’s Energy Management Committee has steadily worked to move our town toward clean electricity, energy conservation, and cost savings. Through these efforts, Marion is also now much closer to achieving the criteria that would qualify our town as a “Green Community” in the state’s eyes. This is not just a nice title—being an official Green Community would also open doors to substantial funding for a variety of municipal improvements related to reducing our carbon footprint and saving energy dollars.

As of December 2017, 60 percent of Massachusetts’ towns have become Green Communities, giving them access to over $85 million in grants since the program began in 2010. Neighboring Acushnet, for example, became a Green Community in 2013. Since then it has received $496,000 in grant funding through the program, which they have used to update heating systems, insulation, and lighting in municipal buildings and schools. Funds can also be used to acquire energy-efficient vehicles, charging stations for electric cars, and install smart thermostats.

To become a Green Community, a town must satisfy five criteria. When Marion’s residents approved the Municipal Solar Overlay District around the capped landfill on Benson Brook Road that allowed solar installations by right, we met the first two criteria. By acquiring four electric vehicles and charging stations for municipal use, we made progress on a third requirement: replacing energy inefficient municipal vehicles with more efficient ones. The fourth criterion is to develop a plan to reduce the town’s energy use. We have made headway on this, too, by installing efficient lighting in Sippican School and approving the replacement of streetlights with LEDs. The fifth requirement is to adopt the so-called “Stretch” building code, which calls for a few additional energy-efficient building practices to be followed by new construction.

Until now Marion has been missing the boat on funding opportunities from the Green Community program and the energy-wise improvements it would pay for. The Energy Management Committee is moving forward with completing the steps necessary to make Marion green, too.

Information on the Green Communities program is available at https://www.mass.gov/guides/becoming-a- designated-green-community.

Jennifer Francis

Marion’s Energy Management Committee