MVC considers update to energy policy

Revisions focus on current building codes, all-electric designs, and mitigating climate change.

The MVC is updating its energy policy to focus on mitigating the effects of climate change. — Brian Dowd

For the first time in 12 years, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission is planning to make changes to its energy policy with a focus on mitigating the effects of climate change.

The commission’s energy policy is nonbinding, but it gives applicants a better idea of what the commission would like to see in a project. Commissioners can then use the energy policy to weigh the benefits and detriments of a project.

The policy, which has not been updated since 2008, is another step for the commission as it continues to keep climate change issues at the forefront of its regional planning efforts. The policy aims to reduce or eliminate fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emission for developments of regional impact (DRI), to maximize energy efficiency of DRI buildings and other structures, and to improve overall energy resilience.

The new policy focuses on existing building standards, and calls for all-electric design. It also condenses planning and design principles, updates context regarding climate change, and further defines the three policy goals.

The committee includes commissioners Rob Doyle, Joan Malkin, Ben Robinson, and Richard Toole, and at-large members former state Board of Building Regulation Standards member Michael Brown, Vineyard Sustainable Energy Committee chair Rob Hannemann, HVAC systems engineer Marc Rosenbaum, and building systems commissioning expert Steven Turner. Alex Elvin of the commission staff is also a member.

“It’s clear what the detriments are. Nobody is disputing that the use of fossil fuels is a detriment, so as long as we’re not stating a statute for what they have to meet, but using it as guidance whether we approve a project based on the benefits and detriments,” said Robinson, who presented the updated energy policy to the full commission.

Commissioner Josh Goldstein raised concerns if applicants couldn’t financially afford to meet the energy policy, but Robinson said it would be a mechanism for the commission to determine how much of a detriment the project would be.

Commissioner Gail Barmakian also felt the policy should be more specific for applicants to understand how the commission will see the project if they can’t meet the energy policy.

Commission executive director Adam Turner said the policy will likely change as more technology becomes available.

“I think energy is an important thing we need to address,” Turner said. “I think the policy is flexible enough, because it basically is a policy.”

After going through the policy, Robinson expressed wanting to act on it before the end of the year. The committee will continue to work on the policy, and bring back a report to the full commission on Dec. 3.

In other business, the commission’s officer nominating committee has recommended Joan Malkin take the mantle of commission chair, Jim Vercruysse to be vice chair, and Ernie Thomas to remain as clerk-treasurer. Officers are chosen by the full commission annually each December. Officer elections will take place at the commission’s Dec. 3 meeting.