The SDG Connection: Renewable Energy

The purpose of the SDG Connection blog series is to illustrate that communities of all sizes can use the Sustainable Development Guidelines to assess their own sustainable development efforts in our efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  This month’s topic is renewable energy. 

Why Care about Renewable Energy?

There are two key opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the energy sector: (1) sourcing our energy from zero-carbon/clean energy and (2) reducing the amount of energy we use (energy efficiency). Energy-related emissions in buildings are the largest contributor to Devens’ community carbon footprint and it is especially important to support the development of renewable energy in order to reduce these emissions.

Renewable energy sources include solar photovoltaic (rooftop and ground-mounted systems), solar hot water, wind, geothermal, small-scale hydropower, and biomass. Additional benefits of utilizing renewable energy rather than fossil fuels include better air quality and public health, grid reliability, and lower energy costs.

SDG Connection: How Renewable Energy is Connected to Climate Change 

Devens’ has a strong commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by promoting renewable energy through actions in the Devens Forward Plan. In fact, the Devens Enterprise Commission has hired Sustainable Performance Institute to review our incentives for green buildings, including those for renewable energy use in order to increase their utilization. We are working with our business and development community as well as MassDevelopment’s Utilities division on this project.

Supporting renewable energy development in Devens can help us to achieve the UN SDGs, including:

  • SDG 7: Affordable and Clean Energy 
  • SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 13: Climate Action

Devens’ Clean Energy Future

Our Current Renewable Energy Mix

MassDevelopment Devens operates a municipal utility. It has done a good job keeping energy costs amongst the lowest in the state. MassDevelopment, as a quasi-state agency is seeking to increase its sourcing of renewable energy per the state’s climate change goals. Being a municipal utility allows them great flexibility in pursuing this goal. 

Currently, 10% (12 MW) of Devens’ energy is from renewable sources, as compared to the 9% average for the electricity grid in New England, including 10 MW of solar arrays developed in and around Devens and purchased wind energy from Saddleback Ridge Wind Farm in Maine. 

Standards and Incentives for Renewable Energy

The Commonwealth is undertaking regulatory changes to reduce carbon emissions and Devens is taking steps to develop incentives to help community members adapt to these new regulations. The Devens Enterprise Commission provided input and worked with the state to develop a Net Zero Energy Stretch Code to require higher energy performance standards for new buildings to address increasing building energy efficiency.

What are net zero energy buildings? According to the US DOE: “an energy-efficient building where, on a source energy basis, the actual annual delivered energy is less than or equal to the on-site renewable exported energy”.

Devens is taking action as part of the Devens Forward Plan to promote renewable energy:

  • Support Devens businesses in development of on-site solar installations for direct charge of vehicles, backup generator power, or other suitable equipment
  • Increase the type and number of installations of renewable energy on municipal property
  • Utilize Net Zero Energy building standards for all new municipal buildings and redevelopment projects wherever technologically and financially feasible
  • Engage with Devens Clean Tech business community to identify opportunities for demonstration projects that advance the transition to clean and renewable energy

Spotlight: U.S. Army’s Role in Advancing Clean Energy

Devens still has a significant military presence and they are taking action to advance clean energy. Base Camp Systems Integration Laboratory (SIL) at Fort Devens is promoting innovation in advancement of renewable energy and can be seen as a model for other military bases around the country or even for businesses here in Devens. Their energy initiatives include energy efficient shelters/buildings, solar power for hot water, power management system that includes a microgrid and energy storage.

What Can Businesses and Residents do to Make an Impact?

Everyone in Devens can play a role in supporting renewable energy:

  1. If you are planning to install solar pv on your property, learn more about the current benefits Devens has to offer, including fee reduction options and waivers for electrical permit fees.
  2. Can’t install renewables on your property? You can still support renewables without installing anything on your property by subscribing to a share of community solar!
  3. Massachusetts offers incentives for residential and commercial solar projects through the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program.
  4. Check out the programs offered for businesses and residents through the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center for savings on renewables.  Check with MassDevelopment’s utility department to see what might be available.
  5. Learn more about the tax incentives offered by Massachusetts and the federal government for installing renewable energy.

Stay tuned for blogs each month and to check out the actions in the Plan if you want more information about what Devens is doing to promote renewable energy.