The towns of Aquinnah and Chilmark have received a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. The grant, which comes through the Department of Energy’s Energy Transitions Initiative Partnership Project (ETIPP), doesn’t have a monetary aspect, but will instead provide technical expertise to the two towns in furtherance of preparing municipal buildings for 2040 energy goals.
“The neighboring towns of Aquinnah and Chilmark on the island of Martha’s Vineyard will work together on technical assistance in three areas to help them achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2040 with retrofits for municipal buildings, distributed energy resources, and microgrids,” a Department of Energy press release states. “The project will help both towns identify suitable high-impact energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions to improve energy resilience and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Bill Lake, chair of Aquinnah’s climate and energy committee, said he was “delighted” the two towns got the grant.
Chilmark energy committee chair Rob Hannemann told The Times Aquinnah and Chilmark were chosen among 12 other grant recipients across the nation.
U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm described the grant as benefiting communities such as Aquinnah and Chilmark, which are on islands and “remote.”
“As climate change intensifies, remote and island communities, which experience higher energy costs and may lack the financial resources and expertise to make their energy systems more resilient, are more at risk to extreme weather events,” Granholm stated through a release. “DOE will connect 12 more communities with our world-renowned National Labs to execute strategic and locally tailored clean energy and resilience solutions, driving the nation’s equitable transition to a net-zero economy.”
“So what this grant allows us to do is to develop detailed plans for our towns that give us cost/benefit information,” Hannemann said. He specified the grant assistance provides “technically informed cost/benefit analysis to be used in developing plans.”
Hannemann went on to say, “We’re at a kind of a transition point in our Island’s efforts to combat climate change, in the sense that we have figured out what kind of goals we ought to have. We have a lot of people now involved in our efforts.” But the next step, he said, will be “a little bit harder” than previous steps.
“We need to make our municipal buildings fossil-fuel-free over the next 15 to 20 years,” he said. “And we also want to make those buildings resilient, so that in fact if we have difficulties with storms or other things, we can keep our critical services running.”
Hannemann said that could include looping several town buildings together in a “microgrid.” He expects the towns will have access to technical expertise from the Department of Energy for a year or more.
“We know what our goal is,” Lake said. “By 2040, to be off fossil fuels. Our strategy we pretty much know, but what we don’t know are what are the best tactics.”
Aquinnah, along with West Tisbury — the other up-Island town — will require all new construction be all-electric only, which is a major accomplishment, Lake said.
As far as the grant goes, Lake said it will help rank what steps to take next. “What we don’t know is what’s the best thing to do first, what the priorities ought to be, what steps to take in the next two years or five years in order to be in the position we want to be in by 2040,” Lake said. “So what we really want are the experts at DOE take [us] step by step to where we want to go.”
Lake went on to say, “We’ll be working together. We applied together because Chilmark and Aquinnah are the westernmost and most remote towns on the Island, and have a lot in common.”
“ETIPP will leverage the world-class expertise of DOE’s experts and National Labs to advance local clean energy solutions and improve resilience for the 12 selected communities which, like other remote and island areas, often lack the financial resources and the access to experts to plan a clean energy transition,” according to the press release. “ETIPP employs local community leaders, residents, and organizations for a community-led and inclusive approach by identifying the energy challenges of each community, and providing strategic assistance to help them determine and direct their energy transition.”