In 2008, Belmont voters made a strong commitment to climate action – an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The town has made great strides over the past few years, but it is not on track to meet our climate commitments.
We must work more aggressively to meet the commitments of Belmont’s Climate Action Plan. The Town Energy Committee’s roadmap for reducing carbon emissions is an excellent guide to the steps we can to get us there, but we won’t achieve our goals without partnerships between town departments and community groups. I believe in the power of our public-private collaborations to make transformative change on our climate goals.
The Belmont Energy Committee and dedicated community groups like Sustainable Belmont have analyzed the actions most likely to achieve these crucial targets. They have put together a draft roadmap that includes strategic electrification of the largest causes of greenhouse gas emissions – transportation by car and home heating. By leveraging the ability of our local municipal utility, Belmont Light, to make Belmont’s electricity carbon-free, we can dramatically reduce the impact of cars and home heating on climate change, and at the same time reduce operating costs for the town and residents.
First, let me say that this collaboration is a model for how town government should work. Volunteer citizen groups, volunteer town committees, and town departments working together accelerate progress on strategic goals. Having served on both citizen advocacy groups and town committees, I have personally experienced the power of this approach to getting things done.
How do these collaborations help us meet our climate goals?
In 2016, the Belmont Goes Solar campaign became the most successful residential solarization program in Massachusetts. Solar panels were added by 260 homeowners from a starting point of only 30 homes – more than an 800% increase. This project demonstrated that community groups can work with the town to move the needle on consumer adoption.
Following on that successful model, the Belmont Drives Electric campaign was launched through a collaboration of Belmont Light, the Belmont Energy Committee, Sustainable Belmont, and other Belmont citizens to facilitate adoption of electric vehicles. As of January 2019, Belmont’s zip code had the largest number of electric vehicles in the state, at 213 EVs (as measured by applications for state rebates). As part of the strategic electrification in the Draft Roadmap, the Energy Committee recommended a goal of 50% of new vehicles purchased or leased in Belmont to be EVs by 2030. As a town, we need to determine how to achieve this goal with the help of the Belmont Drives Electric collaboration.
So what other initiatives will we pursue to achieve our climate goals?
The second measurable goal in the Draft Climate Roadmap is the adoption of heat pumps to replace half of all retiring oil heating systems by 2025 and half of all retiring gas heating systems by 2032. I am excited about the emerging collaboration that will help us achieve this goal.
The Belmont High School Building Project demonstrates that Zero Net Energy (ZNE) is an achievable goal that saves the town money. ZNE design will save the town $5M over the life of the 7-12 school building. As we move forward on other major capital projects, we need to prioritize zero net energy in the designs.
There are many federal and state grant opportunities for climate-related initiatives that we, as a town, have not been applying for. A major challenge is staff-time to identify, research, and apply for grants. With the help of volunteers over the last few years, the town has joined the Complete Streets and Green Communities programs, both of which are bringing significant investment into Belmont. Through the MA EVIP program, the town received free electric vehicles and charging stations. I will make it a priority to identify the funding and staffing to leverage the many federal and state programs that are available to municipalities.
“I believe in the power of our public-private collaborations to make transformative change on our climate goals.”
Successful partnerships between community groups and town government get results:
- As of January 2019, thanks to the efforts of the Belmont Drives Electric campaign, Belmont’s zip code had the largest number of electric vehicles in the state.
- In 2016, the Belmont Goes Solar campaign became the most successful residential solarization program in Massachusetts.
- In 2014, through the efforts of Sustainable Belmont, Belmont was designated as a Green Community, bringing hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money to Belmont.
- Through the sustained efforts of citizen volunteers and the Belmont High School Building Committee, the 7-12 school will achieve Zero Net Energy (ZNE).
- Community groups are ready to usher in the next steps of our strategic electrification plan.