West Tisbury revs up plans for carbon-free 2040

Work on town budgets is underway. 

Kate Warner, chair of the West Tisbury energy committee, led a discussion on what it will take to reduce the town's fossil fuel use.

The West Tisbury select board requested that the town’s energy committee return with more information on its plans to do away with fossil fuel use by 2040 during a Wednesday, Dec. 14, afternoon meeting. Voters unanimously approved of this effort during the 2020 annual town meeting

The committee developed a five-year plan to eliminate fossil fuel use in West Tisbury by 2040, with a stated goal of having “town residential and commercial structures transition to all-electric from renewable sources and [be] resilient to the impacts of climate change.” This plan was developed in the fall. Among the various tasks at hand and facility updates, there are several major projects on the “list of works” document, also to be presented to the West Tisbury capital improvements planning committee, that will have higher costs for electrification or improving climate change resiliency that could require feasibility studies. According to the document, West Tisbury School, “our biggest energy user,” is anticipated to carry the heaviest burden for renovations, with a current estimated cost of up to $30 million, less than the up to $37 million presented to the Up-Island school committee in an energy assessment in September. The school was also discussed as a possible emergency shelter, which would add to the costs. A feasibility study would be required before work can be done on the school, and entering the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) funding process, as is the case for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School replacement project, is being considered. 

“It really is up to you guys and the capital improvements committee how this rolls out, and the energy committee is very aware that the high school is about to start; we have the Howes House underway. So we have some projects already,” energy committee chair Kate Warner said to the board. 

Board chair and capital improvements committee member Cynthia Mitchell recommended making a list on a spreadsheet so the town has details on the capital projects that will be needed and their anticipated costs “to the best of your knowledge.” 

“That’s what the [capital improvement] committee is going to want to know, the size of the project in dollars, even if it’s a range,” Mitchell said, later continuing that an idea of “the proper sequences of these things in the energy committee’s views … and how to prioritize them within that [period]” will be necessary to reach the 2040 goal considering that there will be competition for funds and resources with other projects. 

Warner said the 2040 goal is “for climate mitigation,” but the “urgency of the projects is a little different” because it is to improve the buildings’ resiliency, such as against major storms. However, the school will not be the first improvement project to be worked on, despite how important it is in the energy committee’s eyes. 

“We have to move past the school … because it’s too big. It’s hard to know when to do it. It’s hard to know if you wait for the MSBA funds whether we’ll be in the same situation as Tisbury, where the cost will double because we waited. I don’t know the answers to that. But the other buildings are in order [of importance],” Warner said, referring to the list of works. She also later said a lot of it comes down to money and how the town plans to spend it. 

Board members Skipper Manter and Jessica Miller agreed that costs will be a point of consideration. Miller added that prioritization in the plan’s timeline will also need to be kept in mind. 

“We’re already starting to see extreme weather. Some of this stuff really should not wait or be pushed off,” Miller said later in the meeting.

According to Mitchell, the town’s facilities team will also need to consider how the improvements requested by the energy committee could be advanced, “although it would not be so neat and tidy.” Zoning inspector Joseph Tierney requested a copy of the energy committee’s Clean Energy and Resiliency (CLEAR) report, released in March 2021.

When Warner asked whether some of the smaller maintenance requests, such as rewiring West Tisbury Public Library’s critical loads panel, would need to go to the annual town meeting, West Tisbury town administrator Jennifer Rand said it would depend on the expenses and funding availability. 

Mitchell suggested Warner bring the more detailed documents to the capital improvements committee. “The townspeople want it. I’m just encouraging you to educate the various town boards, and the CLEAR report is one way to do it,” Mitchell said. 

Warner also said she will return to the select board to present “the [municipal opt-in specialized stretch] code,” which the energy committee wants as a warrant article. 

“It is a municipal bylaw, I checked that with the [Massachusetts] DOER (Department of Energy Resources), and it is being adopted or considered for adoption across the state,” Warner said. “The stretch code is becoming more stringent, and the specialized code is an overlay on the new stretch code. It’s not radically different from the new stretch code, but it does have a couple of pieces that are more stringent.” 

In other business, the board unanimously approved fiscal year 2024 budget requests from several town departments. Most of them saw an increase compared with last year, and they will appear before West Tisbury voters during the annual town meeting. The building department’s budget was put on hold until the next meeting because of a decision to further consider Tierney’s request for a part-time administrative assistant. 

A full list of the budget requests reviewed during the meeting are available on the town website

The board unanimously approved Elaine Weintraub to the West Tisbury task force against discrimination. Weintraub is the co-founder of the African American Heritage Trail of Martha’s Vineyard.

The board unanimously approved sending a letter of support for Navigator Homes. 


  1. Eliminating fossil fuel by 2040 aint gonna happen and all you are doing is taxing the people with your plans. If the other towns dont go along with you you have done nothing for the island. People have enough trouble paying for the schools let alone the sophistry that comes with thinking this little island will help save the planet.

    • This is what happens when we let we the people run things.
      There is no way that we can be fossil free by 2040.
      Even a 98% reduction would be a stretch
      Hardly worth the effort.
      We need a single strong leader.
      Someone who can make the Island great again, again.

  2. So, if I have this straight, if I own a house in West Tisbury that I heat with oil or natural gas, I have to switch everything over to some kind of renewable? If this passes, get ready to see a sh#@load of houses hit the market in WT

  3. This is a noble goal, but completely unattainable.
    The argument that if we do it, no one else will is equally as ludicrous.
    We have a lot of low hanging fruit to pick that can actually help now, but fossil fuel free in 18 years ? I’m all for getting off fossil fuels, but let’s get what we can in a sensible way.
    Tisbury just voted in an 82 million dollar school project without any renewable energy.
    Rule number one in obtaining a goal is to make the goal reasonable.
    This claptrap goal is just giving red meat to the climate deniers to wag their fingers and rightly ridicule the unreasonable and unattainable goals of left wing “alarmist”.

  4. You don’t have it right. You don’t have to change your house. You may find when it is time to replace a boiler or furnace, that doing so with a heat pump is a good idea. Up to you. And you may in the meantime, want to have free energy audit from the Cape Light Compact– and take advantage of their programs to make your house better insulated and tighter– so that you save money on oil or propane. Your choice!

    • What if the heat pump is not a good idea ? As -it’s too cold in New England to work or too expensive? And what if someone else decides my boiler “needs” to be replaced? To meet their goal?

        • You’re leaving out the part about higher installation costs, backup systems and retrofitting insulation and wide variation in efficiency in houses based on location, age and construction. And that you need tax “incentives” to lower upfront costs. So – it’s a lot like solar – a great idea in theory, but implementation is variable. They do work in the south tho.
          If the systems were consistently reliable, less costly and more efficient they wouldn’t need tax incentives and “everyone” would build them in when building new or replacing.

  5. Have you seen the price of electricity lately…The average price of electricity for residential consumers could reach $0.1524/kWh in 2023, the U.S. Energy Information Administration forecast on Thursday 9/9/22 in its latest Short Term Energy Outlook. That would represent about a 3.3% increase from this year — and EIA says prices are already 7.5% higher today than they were in 2021… that would indicate an almost 16% increase in electricity prices in the four-year period.

    Have you ever heard of “putting all your eggs in one basket”? This will raise taxes as you try to pay the electric bills for municipal buildings. Renewable resources will not likely be available to meet the demand and will likely come at a higher cost as demand increases. Add this to the housing bank tax you want, the land bank tax you currently have, the short term rental tax…when will these governments stop taxing people out of being able to afford to live here.

    • Patrick– That 15 cent a kwh is way in the rear view mirror here.
      I pay 36.122 cents per kwh.
      I pay a bit extra because it’s “green energy” . Of course the electrons from a windmill in New Hampshire do not squeeze past the electrons from the propane burners, and power my lightbulbs. But the magic accounting methods allow my money to go to the operators of the windmill.
      I agree with you about all the eggs being in one basket. As a community, we leave ourselves vulnerable to power outages. The utility companies are not even taking the precaution of burying the lines to protect against strong hurricanes or tornadoes. And there are many paths to power outages.
      I have a wood stove for heat, and a propane stove to cook on, and I’m happy with that.

  6. Another feel good plan for the Woke island. It’s been pointed out before our electricity comes from fossil fuels and that is not about to change anytime soon. And people who know more than me and you think it may not be until we find fusion or some other method that we could actually run the world without fossil fuels. The planet does not care where the fossil fuel burning is going on with China and India doing far greater harm than any saving MV might do. But one group that will not be saving is the Martha’s Vineyard taxpayer as all these programs need revenue from them.

    And on the last comment in the article about West Tisbury supporting navigator homes I hope they all support navigator homes, paying their fair share in taxes and not hiding behind a nonprofit status. Nonprofits to me that pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars in salaries to many employees can afford to pay real estate taxes as well.

    • Bob– pick a church– any church.
      Amazon the corporation paid very little in taxes since the GOP -Trump tax cuts.
      “Amazon Corporate Tax Avoidance Under Trump-GOP Tax Law
      2020 2019 2018 3 yrs
      U.S. Pretax Income $20.2 billion $13.3 billion $11.2 billion $44.7 billion
      Current Federal Income Tax $1.8 billion $162 million $-129 million $1.9 billion
      Effective Federal Income Tax Rate 9.4% 1.2% -1.2% 4.3%.

      “In 2007, Jeff Bezos, then a multibillionaire and now the world’s richest man, did not pay a penny in federal income taxes. He achieved the feat again in 2011. In 2018, Tesla founder Elon Musk, the second-richest person in the world, also paid no federal income taxes.
      Michael Bloomberg managed to do the same in recent years. Billionaire investor Carl Icahn did it twice. George Soros paid no federal income tax three years in a row.”
      And you are worried about Harbor Homes not paying taxes?

      I am always curious as to why the sleep mob always manages to bring India into the discussion about burning fossil fuels and blame them, despite the fact they have 4 times the population of the U.S and burn 1/2 what we do. Per capita we burn 8 times what they do.

  7. I really feel like an idiot after reading these comments and then reviewing my electric bill. Clearview Electric is my suppler apparently. .49 kwh for “green energy” . More than twice most suppliers. Talk about a Ponzi scheme! I’ll be changing tomorrow. I’m sure I’m not alone in getting screwed on my bill.

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