With the community using over 97% of all the energy in the community (with Town government making up the balance) it is critically important that everyone be engaged in reducing their energy use. Remember, this is the most effective strategy of our three pronged approach. Following are some ideas on how to tackle this challenge. Please add your ideas at the end!
Buildings: Residential, Industrial & Commercial
Buildings account for almost one third of all the energy used in the community, and we know that we could likely reduce energy use 50% – 70%. Of the energy used in our buildings, approximately 58% is for residential use. The commercial sector is 36%, while the industrial sector is only 5%.
It is very difficult to make changes in this area for several reasons. While we know the aggregate energy used, 1) we do not know how much energy each building is using; 2) we must rely on the voluntary efforts of the building owners to upgrade the buildings; and/or 3) we must rely on the building users to voluntarily change their habits.
Additional challenges are that taking action takes time and effort!: 1) many people do not know about the audits and rebates, 2) in some cases landlords pass on energy costs to their tenants so they don’t care about the cost of the utilities, and in other cases the landlords pay for the utilities and the tenants don’t care about how much energy they use, and 3) the utility rebates and federal tax credits are adequate for an energy retrofit that will result in 5-15% savings, but not for the deeper 40-75% savings that we would like to see.
However, there is much that we can do! In April 2009, GGEC launched the Greenfield 10% Challenge Greenfield 10% Challenge, a community-wide high profile campaign to reduce energy use and carbon emissions by 10% by 2010. This campaign uses the New England Carbon Calculator, incentives, lawn signs, and a major public relations campaign to reach its goal, as well as raising funds to help lower income elders take advantage of the MassSAVE insulation program by making the required matching funds available to them.
Examples of no-cost low-cost things people can do is turn off lights and appliances when not in use, take shorter showers, use a clothesline instead of a dryer, change to energy-efficient light bulbs or appliances. Click for a list of simple things you can do. Click here to find out how you can join a Low Carbon Diet action study group offered by GGEC.
If you own a building, this is a great time to assess how to reduce your utility bills. Utility companies are offering better incentives to homeowners and businesses than ever before! As of January 2009, MassSAVE.com offers residential customers free energy audits, and then will pay 75% of the cost of air sealing and/or insulating up to $2,000 per home. They also offer 0% interest loans up to $15,000. Additionally, there are $1,500 federal tax credits and other low interest loans for home improvements. Click for a 2-page list of Resources for Homeowners compiled by GGEC. And watch the GGEC events calendar for workshops for homeowners and renters.
Organizations offering financial assistance – Community Action, Franklin County Home Care Corp (FCHCC) Community Action offers fuel assistance and weatherization to income eligible people. In April 2009, GGEC held a fundraiser to help elders take advantage of utility rebates by helping them with the required matching funds. These funds are available upon request through the FCHCC.
Other organizations offering information and workshops on energy issues include Coop Power, CET, FRCOG, and the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice.
Numerous groups are seeking funds so that we can start doing deeper energy retrofits.
Codes: Adopting new codes and/or regulations should also be explored. For example, Massachusetts is promoting a new “Stretch Code” and in March 2009 the Commonwealth released a report called Getting to Zero, the Final Report of the Massachusetts Zero Net Energy Buildings Task Force. Some progressive and effective ideas from that report and from other communities include: 1) requiring homes, when sold, to meet a stated energy-efficiency standard (CA); 2) all new homes must be “zero net energy ready” (Austin, TX); and 3) all homes have a right to solar access (CA); 4) co-sponsor a mortgage write-down program for deep energy retrofit projects; 5) utility in-bill financing for photovoltaic installations (Berkeley, CA). A group of citizens or a college intern should explore these options, the new Massachusetts stretch code, and propose updated codes for Greenfield.
As for advocacy – we should continue to advocate on a state and federal level for funds and policy that support reducing our energy use.
Transportation uses 42% of the energy consumed in the community and one third of the climate change emissions. As for our money spent on fuels, in 2008 40% of Greenfield’s energy dollars were spent on gasoline and diesel fuels. Of that approximately 96% of those dollars went out of our community to pay for the fuel! Unfortunately, we have been unable to get information from the Registry of Motor Vehicles on how many of Greenfield’s vehicles have commercial plates and how many have regular plates. In any case, this is an area that is not easy to effect change because: 1) change is voluntary; 2) the most effective changes involve behavioral changes; 3) it is difficult to increase mass transit options with such a dispersed population; and 4) energy efficient vehicle options (50-100 mpg) that use different kinds of fuels are limited and expensive.
However, if motivated, there is much we can do!
We can learn about the latest regional transportation plan, and sit at the table when the plan is next updated. The latest plan endorsed in April 2007 is called the Update to the Long Range Regional Transportation Plan. It was developed by the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) staff and the Franklin County Transportation Planning Organization.
Locally we can:
Consider moving to a location that is closer to work and play, so that you can walk or bike, and save money on fuel as well as travel time!
Use the most fuel efficient way possible to get around, such as waking, biking, and using mass transit. See chart below.
If you must use a car, carpool (www.rideBUZZ.com or www.zipride.com), avoid unnecessary trips by grouping your errands, living close to work and play, and shopping locally, and when you purchase your next car, look for the most fuel efficient car available that will meet your needs.
Celebrate and use the new transit center on Olive Street that will open in 2011. It will be a state-of-the-art zero net energy building – which will generate as much energy as it uses on an annual basis!
Work with our Mayor, Town Council, the FRTA (Franklin Regional Transit Authority) FRCOG and others to develop a workable mass transit system.
Nationally, we can:
Ask your representatives to support investment in mass transit, and put a moratorium on building roads.
Ask your representatives to adopt higher fuel economy standards. Today auto companies in the USA are required to have a fleet average (CAFÉ standard) of 35 mpg by 2020. Today, Europe and Japan require 47mpg and 49mpg respectively. Some cars already get 50 mpg, so we know it can be done!
In May 2009, President Obama announced that the EPA will regulate climate change emissions from vehicles! This is an amazing victory after a 10-year battle.
With the collapse of the US automotive industry in 2009, we are in a unique position to ask for new kinds of vehicles that are more efficient, and emit zero carbon emissions. Ask your representatives to support zero carbon vehicles and automotive fuels. Following are some ideas that are being explored. BEWARE! Be sure you understand the full life cycle emissions and other unintended side effects!
Electricity: Electricity has the advantage that it can be produced from many different energy sources, and electric motors are incredibly efficient. Auto companies are looking at plug-in hybrids (www.pluginamerica.org ), battery-electric, (Electric Auto Association www.eaaev.org ) or fuel cell electric cars that use hydrogen (American Hydrogen Association www.clean-air.org). Be sure you understand full life cycle emissions before adopting this path! And the possible challenges of plugging in your car.
Biofuels: Make liquid fuels from biomass. While expensive today, it is conceivable that in the future we could supplement our transportation fuels with ethanol (can be mixed with gasoline) or biodiesel (can be mixed with diesel). Again, be sure to understand full life cycle emissions and other unintended side effects of this approach! Many feel that this approach has many more negatives that positives!
Natural gas: Natural gas emits less CO2/unit of energy than gasoline, but it is still a fossil fuel and therefore it is a limited resource.
The Union of Concerned Scientists has a pretty good overview of the issues and technologies here.
Graph: Energy use per passenger mile. Use the most efficient possible. The bicycle is the best!