Green Communities Designation



Top Reasons Why Shrewsbury Should Become A Green Community

The Green Communities Designation and Grant Program helps municipalities navigate and meet the five criteria required to become a Green Community, in turn qualifying them for grants that finance additional energy efficiency and renewable energy projects at the local level.

The Green Communities Program strives to help our town find clean energy solutions that reduce long-term energy costs and strengthen our local economy. The Green Communities division of the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) provides technical assistance and financial support for municipal initiatives to improve energy efficiency and increase the use of renewable energy in public buildings, facilities and schools.

The program is very flexible and the focus seems to be in getting municipalities to join the program which in turn helps the state meet its mandate to reduce GHG emissions 80% by 2050.
Information concerning the mandates that the Town would then be subject to resulting from our participation including the question if we would be required to adopt the “stretch” building code.
  • Shrewsbury has at least one customer serviced by an Invester-Owned Utility which means Shrewsbury does NOT have to adopt a Renewable Energy Charge and can join the program without paying into it.
  • The stretch energy code is basically incorporated into the new building codes anyway coming up in January, so Adopting the Stretch Energy Code (which 176 municipalities have already done) isn’t going to be much of a ‘stretch’ anymore.  I believe she mentioned the difference now is more about discussing options up front and how it is validated (testing rather than a checklist) so the impact on businesses should be now minimized.
  • Our existing Renewable/Alternative Energy zoning probably already qualifies.
  • And purchasing fuel-efficient vehicles doesn’t seem to be a hindrance given it is by class of vehicle so ford explorers still qualify.
  • The 20% energy reduction plan has a 2-yr look-back so the town would get credit for efforts it has done recently and it is not meant to penalize for more use (ie. accounts for expansions such as a bigger library than before).
  • Shrewsbury could leave the program whenever they wanted to – the town just wouldn’t get any more grant money.
  • The town can decide to be as active in the program as it wants to be.  For example, if the town wanted to have a new project every year and spend the grant money, we could do that.  Or we could only choose to apply/participate as something comes up.
Immediate tangible benefits the town would receive if the town voluntarily participated in this State program.
  • Shrewsbury’s estimated initial grant amount would be $180,000.
  • Competitive grants available annually up to $250,000 per applicant for those that have expended all prior grant funds.    We could apply every year for what seems to be about $200,000/yr grant for what the town wants to spend it on (the state does not specify/mandate what the town needs to spend the money on – other than that the request falls within the guidelines of the program).  Whereby the town can apply for a new grant once the town has spent the money from the previous one. Projects being funded include electric and thermal (natural gas and oil) energy conservation measures, incremental costs for hybrid vehicles and grant administration costs.


Green Communities Designation and Grant Program process

Becoming designated as a Green Community provides grant funding to a municipality to support all or a portion of the cost of:

  • studying, designing, constructing and implementing energy efficiency activities including, but not limited to, energy efficiency measures and projects;
  • procuring energy management services;
  • adopting energy efficiency policies; and,
  • siting activities related to and construction of renewable energy generating facilities on municipally owned property.


Aug. 17 through 5 pm September 18 Accepting requests for designation application preliminary consultations
October 23 by 5pm Deadline for designation applications
January 15 (2016) by 5pm Deadline for grant applications

Participation by Municipalities Served by Municipal Light Plants

The Green Communities Act requires a specific path forward in order for municipalities served by municipal light plants that adopt the renewable energy charge to participate in the Green Communities Designation and Grant program.

Some municipalities, however, do not clearly fit into the provisions of this statutory requirement because they are in the unusual situation of being served by multiple load serving entities – by an MLP as well as an investor-owned utility. DOER issued the following Guideline in May 2012: Municipalities served by BOTH a municipal light plant and an investor-owned electric utility ARE eligible to apply for and become a designated Green Community.

Please note that any community in this category must submit to DOER materials (such as letters from its utility and the board of its municipal light plant) documenting that the community receives service from both entities.


A municipality must provide zoning in designated locations for the as-of-right siting of:

  1. renewable or alternative energy generating facilities, OR
  2. renewable or alternative energy research and development (R&D) facilities, OR
  3. renewable or alternative energy manufacturing facilities

CRITERION 2: EXPEDITED PERMITTING (for Renewable / Alternative Energy Facilities)

A municipality must adopt an expedited application and permitting process under which Criterion 1 facilities may be sited within the municipality, and the permitting process shall not exceed one (1) year from the date of initial application to the date of final approval.


A municipality must establish an energy use baseline inventory for all municipal buildings (which includes school buildings, drinking water and wastewater treatment plants, pumping stations and open spaces), vehicles, and street and traffic lighting. A municipality must also adopt a comprehensive five-year Energy Reduction Plan (ERP) designed to reduce that baseline by 20 percent after completion of a full five-years of implementing its ERP.


All Departments in the municipality must purchase only fuel-efficient vehicles for municipal use whenever such vehicles are commercially available and practicable.


A municipality must require all new residential construction over 3,000 square feet and all new commercial and industrial real estate construction to minimize, to the extent feasible, the life cycle cost of facilities/buildings by utilizing energy efficiency, water conservation and other renewable or alternative energy technologies. The recommended way for cities and towns to meet this requirement is by adopting the Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS) Stretch Code (780 CMR 115.AA), an appendix to the MA State Building Code. Note: There is no minimum 3,000 square foot threshold for new residential construction if your municipality adopts the Stretch Code. All new residential construction, irrespective of size/square footage, will be subject to the Stretch Code. Towns are advised to adopt the Stretch Code as a general bylaw at Town Meeting.





  • Citizens work with the Town Manager and Green Communities Program Coordinator to understand the benefits and identify previous roadblocks from 2009 no longer are a problem

May 2009 Annual Town Meeting



12/27/18 – Baker-Polito Administration Designates 30 Cities and Towns as Green Communities

Shrewsbury $183,411
Northborough $149,309
Westborough $152,096

“The Green Communities program is an essential component of our nation-leading clean energy success and demonstrates our administration’s commitment to partnering with municipalities.  These 30 newly designated communities are pledging to join in responsible stewardship of the environment and taxpayer resources while creating a cleaner, healthier Commonwealth for our residents and businesses.”
– Governor Charlie Baker

“As these 30 newly designated communities invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in clean energy.  With today’s designation, the Green Communities program continues to prove an effective tool in building a clean energy future for the Commonwealth and achieving our Global Warming Solutions Act goals.”
– Matthew Beaton, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary

01/09/18 – Grafton designated Green Community, receives grant

09/16/17 – Shrewsbury town meeting OK gas line extensions, solar deal

Town meeting also unanimously approved amending town bylaws to add a section titled “Stretch Energy Code,” one of five criteria to be eligible for the state’s Green Communities progam. The new bylaw requires all new homes and commercial buildings to meet higher energy performance standards.

More than 200 municipalities have adopted the stretch energy code since 2010, including Bolton, Charlton, Fitchburg, Northbridge, Southboro, Southbridge, Ware and Warren.

The designation makes communities eligible for energy-efficiency grants from the state Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Proponents said once accepted as a Green Community, the town would receive a $180,000 grant and could compete for up to $250,000 a year in other grants to reduce energy consumption.

01/19/17 – Grafton planning to become a Green Community

Town officials are making plans for Grafton to become a state-designated Green Community, joining 155 cities and towns in Massachusetts who are receiving large competitive grants to reduce their energy consumption and, in theory, the tax dollars used to pay those bills. An energy study committee member said adopting this would make sense environmentally and fiscally. Will Grafton go green? According to Town officials, plans are underway to designate Grafton as a state-designated Green Community, allowing it to apply for large grants that can reduce the municipality’s energy consumption and, in theory, the tax dollars used to pay those bills.

09/21/14 – Environmental activist works to keep Shrewsbury green

Hollenback became more vocal and public with her passion with a warrant article that she brought before Town Meeting seeking approval for Shrewsbury’s participation in the state-run Green Communities Program. To qualify, towns need an Energy Committee; this is where the warrant article lost support. The Energy Committee would have powers of promulgation which could hamstring just about anything energy- or environment-related project in town.


04/05/18 – Baker-Polito Administration Presents Green Communities Designation Awards to Central Massachusetts Municipalities

06/28/16 – Baker-Polito Administration Awards Green Communities Grants – 47 Communities Receive $9,580,467 for Clean Energy Projects

Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Matthew Beaton today awarded Green Communities competitive grants totaling $9,580,467 to 47 municipalities across Massachusetts to fund clean energy projects. With today’s announcement, the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has awarded over $60 million to Green Communities in designation and competitive grants since 2010.

“Green Communities are champions for clean energy practices across the Massachusetts and should be commended for their efforts to reduce energy use and costs. Achieving the Commonwealth’s ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments will only be possible with the help of our partner communities in this program.”
– Karyn Polito, Lt Governor of Massachusetts

“The 47 communities receiving over $9.5 million today should be commended for their leadership in embracing clean energy goals at the local level. The Baker-Polito Administration is committed to working with our municipal partners across Massachusetts to meet our shared goals of lower energy consumption and reduced emissions.”
– Matthew Beaton, Secreatory of Energy and Environmental Affairs 

“With their continued commitment toward making significant investments in energy efficiency projects, Green Communities are true leaders of energy conservation in the Commonwealth. As the Commonwealth continues to look ahead toward sustainable energy options, these grant opportunities serve a vital function to assist these communities with achieving their goals to reduce energy consumption. I applaud efforts by local officials and DOER in helping to bring these ideas and programs to fruition.”
– Senator Michael O. Moore (D-Millbury)

08/02/16 – Needham among many towns pursuing renewable energy

“In Massachusetts, we can get 100 percent of our energy from renewable sources,” said Ben Hellerstein, state director of the Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center. “We have enough wind and solar potential to meet our energy needs many times over … The good news is local communities are already taking action. Communities big and small in all parts of the state are moving to adopt clean energy and reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.”

Benjamin Weil, an assistant professor of building and construction technology at UMass Amherst, said that while cities and towns can accomplish a lot on their own, they need partnerships with state and federal government.

Hellerstein said he’s hopeful Massachusetts could get virtually 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources “in the next few decades.”

“It should go without saying that no city or town can do it alone,” he said. “We need support from the state level and national level to make it happen.”

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