State officials this week named Needham a “Green Community,” a recognition of the hard work and effort the town has exhibited in meeting the Green Communities Designation and Grant Program’s five criteria.
“Meeting these criteria is proof of Needham’s position as an energy leader in Massachusetts, poised to reduce its energy costs, improve the local environment and implement energy efficiency and renewable energy projects with funding through the Green Communities Designation and Grant Program,” according to the letter sent by the state Department of Energy Resources (DOER).
As a result of the designation, Needham will receive a grant of $148,270. A grant application outlining how the town will spend the funds will be submitted to the state later this month. The application will include a request to fund a study to review energy reduction and energy efficiency projects throughout town. The study would look at the town’s existing buildings and make recommendations for projects that would improve energy efficiency.
“Human-caused climate change is a real and demanding challenge requiring public and private response at all levels,” said Select Board member Dan Matthews. “Hopefully, Needham’s joining the State’s Green Communities program and other ongoing efforts by the town and its people will be positive contributions to that work.”
The Green Community Designation and Grant Program provides a road map and financial and technical assistance to municipalities that pledge to reduce municipal energy use by 20 percent over five years. Communities must also meet four other criteria established in the Green Communities Act, including zoning changes in designated locations for the as-of-right siting of renewable or alternative energy generating facilities, research and development facilities, or manufacturing facilities; expedited application and permitting for facilities interested in locating their facility in a designated renewable zone; purchase of fuel-efficient vehicles for municipal use; and reduction in the life cycle costs of new construction (adoption of the Stretch Energy Code).
“This is a huge accomplishment for Needham and for the many stakeholders who’ve been involved in this process over the years,” said Needham Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick. “We recognize the role we all have in helping reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and making our environment cleaner and healthier for all. As a Green Community, Needham will be a leader in this effort.”
“We’ve worked a long time to get here,” said Chair of Green Needham Michael Greis. “Green Communities will be truly transformative for Needham because integrating climate and energy into everything we do will build a healthier, more prosperous future.”
Thanks to efforts already underway, Needham is already over 40 percent of the way to its goal of reducing its energy use by 15 percent by fiscal year 2023. The town has outlined quantifiable ways it will reduce its energy use by 15 percent. This work includes the LED streetlight conversion project, replacement of equipment like motors, controls and boilers in municipal and school buildings and the purchase of energy efficient fleet vehicles. The town is targeting an additional five percent through additional studies and energy reviews.