Fighting Climate Change Locally

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By Debra Parkhurst

The Net Zero Study Group, residents concerned with the urgency of climate change, met with the Selectmen on April 24 to discuss their intention to submit an article at the Fall Special Town Meeting.   Net Zero, represented by Dan Bostwick and Janet Powers, and in conjunction with the Bedford Energy Task Force, proposed an article for $10,000 to hire a consultant who would develop a Net Zero Plan for Bedford.

A NetZero community offsets greenhouse gas emissions by producing carbon free energy.  A plan would contain a roadmap with short and long- term goals. The proponents say input from the entire community, including all stakeholders, should produce a successful plan.

The hiring of a consultant would begin the process by assessing the emissions and implementing energy efficient improvements.  The proponents argue that starting the goals in the near term will provide economic benefits in the long term.  Energy efficient buildings provide health benefits (reduced allergy and respiratory ailments) and economic benefits (less energy usage, thus less cost).

Massachusetts law mandates greenhouse gas emissionreductions of 80 percent by 2050.  Bedford Net Zero argues that Bedford’s early initiative would give the town an advantage over other towns and control over local implementation.  They reported on progress made in Cambridge, as well as in the neighboring towns of Concord and Lexington.  Lexington approved their Net Zero consulting contract one year ago, including an inventory of emissions.  The consultant conducts the inventory and creates the steps forward.  This includes all buildings and transportation.

Selectman Carolyn Fedele spoke to the construction code for newer buildings.  Bedford adopted the “stretch code” mandated by the State a few years ago. Powers said the Town cannot go beyond the State code, but can provide incentives for new construction that is “greener.”  Industry and institutions would have to “buy in.” The Net Zero advocates  argued that such buildings may be slightly more expensive (estimate 3%-10%) to build, but the payback is long term.

Selectman Margot Fleischman talked about the economies of scale; that those seeking development within the towns of the Middlesex Coalition, for example, should have similar experiences and expectations going before a Planning Board or a Building Inspector.  She also suggested the possibility of having a consultant who would serve several towns.  Powers said they have not reached out to other towns about this, but have talked briefly to the MAPC (Metropolitan Area Planning Council), which has not yet focused on this program.

The local focus is on energy sources for heat, power, andlight. Bedford has already adopted Community Choice Aggregation, allowing customers to make a “cleaner choice” for their energy source.  Some communities have focused on developing solar arrays or “farms” within their communities. Towns may also focus on transportation.

The Selectmen suggested the group further develop the steps, the costs, and the deliverables, and to be careful not to implement something that would ultimately drive business to neighboring towns where it might be economically feasible to compete.

The Selectmen also said that the Fall Town Meeting is not as far away as it seems and the article should be ready for review by early September.


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