Bellingham, MA – Going Green for 2 Years
By Jennifer Russo
After several years of discussion at town meetings, Bellingham received the “Green Community” designation in February of 2020, after taking steps to qualify. To qualify as “Green”- communities must track energy use and costs, implement energy efficiency measures, purchase energy-efficient vehicles and practice new construction best practices with the goal of progressing toward a 20% energy reduction mark. The Massachusetts Green Communities Division (GCD) provides grants and other support to green designated communities to help them reduce energy use by the implementation of clean energy projects in businesses and schools. Examples of these projects include things like replacing gas or diesel powered vehicles in a municipal fleet with electric vehicles, weather-stripping doors and windows in a municipal building, and replacing lighting with LED bulbs throughout a school, among other items.
Currently, Massachusetts has designated 280 communities as green (out of the 351 cities and towns in the state). Bellingham had received a grant of $166,630 from the GCD, meant to fund energy conservation measures, interior and exterior lighting, and energy conservation measures in its municipal facilities including Bellingham High School.
As of January 2022, the GCD has nearly $8 Million in grant money to award to its green communities through competitive grant awards. There are two opportunities to apply for these awards, once in the spring and once in the fall. Applications for the 2022 Spring Block for these awards are due by April 22nd. The competitive grants are offered on an annual cadence and applicants must demonstrate that they still meet the criteria of the designation. Additional awards can be granted if specific criteria are met. Projects within the applications will be assessed by project viability, payback period, environmental justice benefits, energy reductions, greenhouse gas emissions and strategic electrification for buildings and vehicles.
This year, there is a large focus on decarbonization projects. These projects would involve transitioning buildings, vehicles and other end uses away from consuming fossil fuels, aggressively pursuing energy efficiency to enable cost-effective decarbonization, producing zero and low carbon energy supplies to power our energy system, and balancing remaining emissions by facilitating carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere. These 4 key components are what the Department of Energy considers strategies to achieve “Net Zero” by the year 2050.
Bellingham does have an energy reduction plan (drafted in 2019) outlined in detail on the town website under the Planning Board page, and all considered projects are evaluated against the Green Communities energy reduction studies.