MVC adopts energy policy
In the wake of rising energy costs, disruptions in supply, and forecasts of possible energy shortages, the Martha's Vineyard Commission (MVC) recently adopted an energy policy to promote a sustainable approach to the Island's energy needs through its planning and regulatory powers. The goals in the policy are to protect the Island's economy, environment, health, and quality of life.
The new energy policy is more of an overall commission policy that does not add another layer of review to the MVC process, explained MVC Executive Director Mark London.
"It's just sort of general principles. We're not going to say to an applicant, 'Do this,'" Mr. London said. "For years, the commissioners have been asking about the energy components of applications. Now, with the energy costs so high, usually the applicants have a good energy component in their project. So this policy will not change anything."
In the energy policy's introduction, the MVC states that having an affordable, environmentally sound, safe, and reliable energy supply is critical for the welfare of Martha's Vineyard. Because of its unique characteristics and vulnerabilities as an Island, Martha's Vineyard must address its reliance on fossil fuels, energy imports, and the impact of energy costs on its economy.
To target these areas of concern, the policy lists separate goals for the Island and the commission. For the Island, the MVC set three goals, energy efficiency, clean energy, and local production.
The MVC proposes to reduce the Island's energy use through increased efficiency, conservation, and improved management and distribution of energy resources. To promote clean energy, the MVC will encourage the use of renewable and low-impact sources of energy for heating, electricity, and transportation. Lastly, the MVC will promote the development of local renewable energy production to increase the Island's self-reliance.
One of the commission's goals in the policy is to develop guidelines for reviewing a Development of Regional Impact (DRI) that favors energy sustainability. "Eventually, when we have clarified the policy for DRI review, it would just put down on paper what we're already doing," said Mr. London.
The MVC classifies large projects that will significantly impact their surroundings or affect more than one town as DRIs. Once officially classified as a DRI, a project must be approved by the MVC before a town board may issue a permit or take any action. The commission weighs a project's benefits versus its detriments in deciding whether to approve, approve with conditions, or deny a DRI application.
"We have often asked for Energy Star appliances in anything from elderly housing projects to the World Revival Church," said Megan Ottens-Sargent, Aquinnah commissioner. "Now it's even more consistent, with an actual written policy. The hope is that anyone who is going to develop a project is going to look at energy efficiency as well as aesthetics."
Another MVC goal would involve creating an Island-wide energy District of Critical Planning Concern (DCPC) to allow for policy changes. The MVC also would aid in the development of policies, zoning bylaws, and other practices that promote energy sustainability on an Island-wide and town level.
"I think the commission is basically going to provide guidance to the towns to develop regulations and incentives that will promote alternative energy," said Ms. Ottens-Sargent. "Alternative energy goals cannot be achieved by just the MVC in its regulatory role."
The commission also set a goal to promote planning that favors energy conservation in land use, settlement patterns, and transportation. Compact settlements close to public transit, along with bicycle and pedestrian ways, would be one example.
The commission also plans to follow sustainable energy practices in its own operations. The MVC building underwent an energy audit last year and its lighting has been changed to low-energy fixtures.
"We do not have any current plans to install a wind turbine
on our front lawn," Mr. London