Net Zero: What you Need to Know before Special Town Meeting on November 6

At Wednesday’s informational meeting about the Net Zero article on the November 6 Special Town Meeting warrant – Image (c) JMcCT, 2017 all rights reserved

By Dot Bergin

Mothers Out Front, wearing their “Be a Hero for Net Zero” capes, arranged a forum at Town Hall on October 4 to inform residents about the importance of passing Article 2 at the upcoming Special Town Meeting on November 6.  Speakers from Lexington, Concord, and Cambridge shared their experiences in getting Net Zero plans passed in their towns.

Article 2 is a petitioners’ article (signed by 194 residents) which reads as follows:

Bedford’s Energy Assessment and Action Plan

To determine whether the Town will vote to align the town’s energy goals with the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008 to achieve an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 from a baseline to be established, and in accordance with this goal, to raise and appropriate, transfer from available funds, or otherwise provide the sum of $75,000 or any other sum for the purposes of:

  1. Conducting a greenhouse gas inventory to assess Bedford’s energy use profile and
  2. Engaging one or more consultants for the purpose of developing and making publicly available a report, roadmap and timeline to achieve said goals; pass any vote or take any action relative thereto.

As the Mothers Out Front and their supporters pointed out, the Selectmen approved Article 2 at their September 18 meeting.

“If Lexington, Concord, and Cambridge can adopt a Net Zero plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, so can Bedford” was the rallying point of the evening.

Concord’s Bouzha Cookman described how her group went about organizing and successfully passing an article at the April 2017 town meeting to achieve a 25 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and 80 percent reduction by 2050 (the state-mandated goal.) Concord approved $200,000 in total, of which $100,000 is allocated to hire a Director of Sustainability and $100,000 for consultants to help develop a plan to achieve their goals.  Cookman acknowledged that successful passage required careful and concerted effort on the part of many town groups concerned with sustainability. The article passed by 951 votes.

Former Cambridge Mayor Henrietta Davis outlined her city’s status, in which 80 percent of GGEs comes from buildings. Davis stressed the need to include all stakeholders in the action plan. The city established a Net Zero taskforce, made up of representatives from all sectors: academic, commercial, industrial. Energy efficiency is the answer, Davis said. Make all new buildings efficient and look at existing buildings for retrofit to reduce their emissions.  Currently, Cambridge can only get about 11 percent of its energy from renewables, as not every rooftop is suitable for solar panels, thus energy efficiency is key.

Mark Sandeen from neighboring Lexington, whose situation is more closely related to Bedford, told the audience that they looked to Cambridge for guidance. (link Cambridge Net Zero for resources). Sandeen said that residential buildings account for approximately 55 percent of emissions, with commercial and office buildings at 35 percent. Lexington Net Zero proponents also focused on all buildings.  Four steps their group took were:

  1. Assess building performance – hired a group to do a survey of buildings
  2. Reduce energy inefficiency by fuel switching (Sandeen said the progression would be from oil heating to natural gas to electricity produced from renewable sources)
  3. Produce energy on-site- Sandeen related that in one new school building, there are solar panels on the roof as well as in the parking lot.
  4. Purchase electricity generated from renewables.

Questions from the audience touched on several related issues, such as the transportation sector, a known generator of greenhouse gas emissions.  Janet Powers, the meeting organizer, said Bedford’s Article 2 will focus on town buildings. Sandeen and Davis pointed to Drive Green, a program currently offered by Mass Energy. This is an electric vehicle (EV) discount program in which anyone may sign up for a test drive. After that, you can receive a discount to purchase or lease an EV model. Few people know about this offer. (

Other speakers asked about funding for retrofits in homes. How to convince homeowners to spend the money to increase energy efficiency in their homes?  Again, the speakers pointed to existing programs including free energy audits and rebates and incentives from MassSave (


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