NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

September 6, 2013

Amesbury gets closer to Green Community designation

By Mac Cerullo
Staff Writer

---- — AMESBURY – Amesbury is on the verge of finalizing two energy savings plans that officials say will help the city save money and fulfill the state’s final two requirements to become recognized as a Green Community.

Over the next few weeks, Amesbury will partner with an energy consultant to develop a new five-year energy reduction plan, and Mayor Thatcher Kezer will conclude work on a fuel-efficient vehicle procurement policy. Neither of these plans requires City Council approval, and Kezer said he expects both should be finalized in time for the city to submit its Green Community application to the state by the end of October.

Should Amesbury earn Green Community designation from the state, the city would become eligible for up to $10 million in grants that could be used for green-energy projects within the community.

The city would also receive a designation grant as a reward for earning Green Community status. In the past, communities of Amesbury’s size have received roughly $150,000 from the state, but occasionally more.

In order to become recognized as a Green Community, Amesbury must meet the state’s five criteria: providing zoning for renewable energy generating, R&D or manufacturing facilities; adopt an expedited application and permit process for those facilities; develop a plan to reduce energy use by 20 percent within five years; purchase only fuel-efficient vehicles and adopt the state’s Stretch Code.

The city has already created a solar overlay district to meet the first criteria, adopted an expedited application and permit process to meet the second, and in January, the City Council voted 7 to 2 in favor of adopting the Stretch Code, which is an amendment to the state’s building code that emphasizes energy efficiency and has tighter building requirements for both new residential and commercial projects.

In order to develop the five-year energy reduction plan, Amesbury has partnered the Peregrine Energy Group, who functions as the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission’s regional energy coordinator, Kezer said. The plan will serve as a detailed guide for what specific projects in municipal buildings the city can undertake to help it reach 20 percent energy reduction over five years.

“They’re now collecting data from some of the city departments, the schools, the DPW, the water/sewer plants on energy efficiency projects that have already been conducted and are currently in place,” said Eric Gregoire, the mayor’s chief of staff. “Then over the next week or so they’ll be conducting energy audits in all of our buildings, looking at future projects and what kind of savings we could get out of those.”

Gregoire added that work on the fuel-efficient vehicle policy has been ongoing for the past few months and should be complete in the near future.

Once the city submits its Green Community application, Kezer said he expects he’ll hear back from the state with an answer by early January. There are currently 110 recognized Green Communities in Massachusetts.