Secretary of Energy awards towns with green community grants

Energy and Enviormental Affairs secretary Rick Sullivan was on Island Friday and stopped by the newsroom to speak about the Green Communities Act. — Photo by Michelle Williams

Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs secretary Rick Sullivan visited the West Tisbury Agricultural Fair Friday with checks for West Tisbury and Tisbury, recently designated Green Communities.

In a brief ceremony attended by state and local officials, Mr. Sullivan presented a check for $143,250 to West Tisbury and $140,925 to Tisbury. The Green Communities Act, approved in 2008, gives energy efficiency grants to cities and towns that meet five clean-energy benchmarks.

“Tisbury and West Tisbury are two of the leaders in the clean energy revolution underway in Massachusetts,” Secretary Sullivan said in prepared remarks. “The Patrick-Murray Administration is proud to support towns like these, which are committed to cutting energy use, creating jobs and protecting the environment.”

In addition to the grants, each town will receive a certificate from the Commonwealth and four road signs identifying it as an official Green Community, according to a press release.

The two Island towns joined 101 other green Commonwealth communities. To be approved, they had to adopt a new zoning bylaw or ordinance for renewable energy, create a plan to reduce energy use by 20 percent within five years, and implement a new energy-efficient building code, such as the “stretch code.”

Following his visit to the Ag Fair, Mr. Sullivan stopped by The Times newsroom to speak with the editorial staff.

Mr. Sullivan said communities should control how the grant money is dispersed. “I was a mayor and think it’s important for the cities and towns to decide how to use the money themselves,” he said. “It can be used at schools, fire stations, and town halls. Some communities have done solar arrays, tying it into schools or town halls.”

Each community has committed to an energy conservation that is equivalent to the annual energy consumption of roughly 13,000 houses, according to a State House News Service release.

Mr. Sullivan said now is the time to invest in green energy, including the Cape Wind turbine project planned for Horseshoe Shoals in Nantucket Sound. “Today, when your costs are relatively low, is the time to be investing and diversifying your portfolio,” he said. “I think wind is one of the main natural resources we have in Massachusetts.”

Though alternative energy will increase costs, he said the increase will be small. “At least since I’ve been here, I think we’ve been relatively straightforward about the cost to [the homeowner’s bill],” he said, adding that the latest study by NSTAR estimates the deal will add $1.08 to the monthly bill of the average residential customer.