TOWNSEND — In 2012, Townsend received the Green Community designation.
To became a green community, and receive the $156,825 in grant money that came with the designation, the town performed an energy audit and passed new bylaws and policies to increase energy-efficiency and promote green building.
The permitting process for alternative energy installations was streamlined as part of the qualification process.
Now, the town has to show the Massachusetts Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs that energy use has dropped 20 percent since 2010, the year chosen for the baseline energy audit. Under the original terms of the grant, the town has five years to make that improvement.
So far, the town has decreased energy use by 2 percent, said Karen Chapman. The land-use agent works for the Energy Committee, which guided the town through the application process and implementation of the plans.
When Chapman was putting together the numbers, she clicked a button on the state database that showed what Townsend’s energy reduction would be if the weather is normalized. Last year was particularly cold, and “we were hoping they would use that number,” she said.
“It showed we were almost 14 percent down,” she said. “If you factor in the weather, we’re doing pretty good.”
But the state did not use figures based on normalized weather. Townsend is not alone in failing to reach a 20 percent energy use reduction.
Other communities, that became green communities prior to Townsend, have not hit the 20 percent benchmark.
Fortunately, the state “just recently decided you get a one-year grace period,” Chapman said. “We actually have until June 2016.”
One of the most expensive projects done with the grant is improvements to the Water Department pumping stations, expected to save $12,000 each year. Because the work was just completed this summer, the full savings have not hit the numbers that Chapman prepared.
Also stymieing the town’s efforts to be more energy efficient is the amount fuel used by municipal vehicles. Only five town-owned vehicles can be replaced with fuel-efficient models.
Most of the town’s fleet are public safety vehicles and vehicles over 8,000 pounds, Chapman said. There are no energy-efficient alternatives for these, but the town still has to include all the fuel these vehicles use when computing energy use.
“It’s really difficult to reduce your fuel usage,” Chapman said.
The grant has helped pay for improvements to indoor and outdoor lighting at municipal buildings and a boiler at the police station.
The Energy Committee has $11,000 of the grant left and plans to use it on little projects before the end of January, Chapman said.
After submitting a final report and having the regional coordinator come out to inspect the projects, the committee plans to apply for a competitive grant.
The Energy Committee is considering including school buildings in the town’s energy audit beginning next year, Chapman said. Schools tend to use a lot of energy.
She emailed the superintendent about North Middlesex Regional School District to talk about including Spaulding School and Hawthorne Brook Middle School and has not yet had a reply.
The schools would need to supply data back to 2009, Chapman said.
Energy use awareness on the part of residents and town employees has increased since the town became a Green Community, she said. In addition to improvements at public buildings, the Energy Committee has attended Earth Day celebrations on Townsend Common.
“It’s something they’re really aware of, getting employees and residents aware,” Chapman said.
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