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2019

Annual Report Spring 2019


2018

Highlights Excerpted from the Annual Report
Submitted to Town Meeting Spring 2018

Download Selectmen's Climate Action Committee's Report to Spring Town Meeting 201 (PDF)8 for a summary of the committee's recent activities.

1. Prepared Climate Action Plan 2018; Prioritizing Zero Emissions by 2050

The last Climate Action Plan (CAP) was prepared in 2012 and its action items updated in 2015. The 2015 revision advocated reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80% over the baseline year by 2050, consistent with the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act. In December 2017 the SBCAC approved a new Climate Action Plan, prepared by staff, that reflects best practices employed by municipalities as well as recommended by Carbon Neutral Cities, Mass Power Forward, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. The new CAP’s objective is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 over baseline year of 2008 and but now prioritizes Zero Emissions by 2050 planning.

The CAP 2018 spans five mitigation strategies (reducing climate-changing greenhouse gas emissions): Greater Energy Efficiency, Increased Renewable Energy, Improved Transportation Options, Reduced Waste, and Enhanced Tree Canopy. The sixth strategy, adaptation (preparing for extreme weather events due to climate impacts) addresses actions that impact public health, emergency management, infrastructure, the built environment, natural resources, and economics. The provisions include actions the Town can take to lead by example, Town initiatives to benefit the community, and actions that households, small businesses, and commercial properties can take to make a measurable impact.
Section IV of this report provides an overview of key action items across the six strategies.

The Town has also updated Climate Action webpages on its site www.brooklinema.gov to better communicate the CAP’s strategies, the Town’s progress, and resources available to the public.  The Planning Department has a quick link on its landing page to Climate Action activities and the CAP.

2. Awarded $233,000 Green Communities Grant

The Town attained “Green Community” status in 2011, which affirmed the Town’s commitment to sustainability. The Town secured a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources for $233,000 for nine projects and an additional $38,000 in utility incentives:  

•installed LED lights in two municipal buildings (the Coolidge Corner Library and the Putterham Library);
•retrofit 60 streetlights to LED in the Brookline Village neighborhood;
•Installed a dual port Level 2 charging station (EVSE) in three municipal lots: Centre Street East, Fuller Street, and Kent-Webster;
•upgraded kitchen exhausts systems at three public schools: Baker, Heath, and Brookline High School

With the exception of the three EVSE installations, the projects will save about $32,000 in energy costs per year and reduce electricity consumption by over 120,000 kWh annually.

Green Community designation must be maintained by continuing to satisfy the Green Community requirements (Appendix 3), including ensuring the town’s fuel efficient vehicle purchasing policy is followed and that progress is made on the adopted Municipal Energy Reduction Plan. Annual reporting on the Town’s Green Community status to the state is therefore required and was submitted in December 2017. A report on the 2017 grant projects was submitted in January 2017. A table of the Town’s progress is on the last page of this report.

3. Launched Brookline Green Electricity Program

Working with a subcommittee, the Town contracted with energy broker Good Energy to submit a community choice aggregation plan to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, which was approved in June 2017. The Town launched the program in late June 2017 and reports a 90% participation rate in the program. The program has three products with different amounts of additional renewable energy (0%, 25%, and 100%). Over 92% of the participating account holders are enrolled in the default 25% product, which helps the Town displace almost 34 million pounds of carbon dioxide annually.

The Town is a leader nationwide for providing a 25% default product. This leadership is having an impact locally. The Boston City Council invited staff to testify at a public hearing at which the Council voted unanimously to create legislation approving the launch of an aggregation-plus-renewables program. Boston University and Northeastern University graduate students in sustainability consulted with staff on their capstone projects, which involve advising Boston on its net zero carbon emissions planning.

The program is seeing a steady increase in participation in the 100% renewable option. In November 2017 Eversource raised its Jan-Jun 2018 supply rates for basic service, which means that consumers can purchase Brookline Green’s 100% product for about the same price as basic Eversource rates.

4. Participated on Greater Boston Climate Preparedness Taskforce

The SBCAC and Town staff also represented the Town at meetings of the Climate Preparedness Taskforce, a newly-formed coalition of municipalities in the Greater Boston region, which, with the assistance of MAPC, have agreed to work together to address the likely regional impacts of climate change. This taskforce is encouraging municipalities to develop individual climate vulnerability assessments.

5. Completed Brookline Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Plan; Awarded MVP Designation from State’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs

Through a partnership made possible by the American Geophysical Union, SBCAC members and Town staff worked with Northeastern University scientists to project extreme heat temperatures and the location of urban heat islands in 2030 and 2070 so that the Town can begin work on a mitigation and adaptation action plan. With the help of a $20,000 State Community Compact grant, the Town worked with Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) to incorporate Northeastern’s research into resources that will be used to educate the public and policy makers and expand the study to flooding and precipitation.

The final report and action items was submitted to the State’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), which awarded the Town the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) designation. Such designation makes the Town eligible for generous state funding to implement climate preparedness projects.

6. Presented Interim Report and Recommendations on Net Zero Schools

In collaboration with Climate Action Brookline, an SBCAC subcommittee chaired by Werner Lohe was formed to explore best practices, financial models, and challenges associated with the construction of Net Zero Energy (NZE) buildings.  The subcommittee has worked with the Building Department and Planning Department to guide future policies around net zero initiatives. The report presented to the Select Board, Building Commission, Advisory Council, and School Committee, highlighting key actions to better achieve net zero:

•establishing an integrated team involving decision-makers, architects, sustainability consultant, engineers
•setting high-performance energy goals prior to the onset of the design process
•selecting appropriate benchmarks (EUI, LEED, etc.)
•obtaining early buy-in from decision-makers to make the energy goal as important as the budget
•considering not only capital costs in preparing cost-benefit analyses, but also life-cycle costs using Net Present Value analysis
•using a whole building design process, including more energy modeling
•institutionalizing NZE principles in the Town’s construction process by establishing a staff function with such responsibility or by some other mechanism
•evaluating new goals or standards, particularly the ideas of Fossil Fuel Free Buildings or Zero Emissions

These principles are already being applied to the Brookline High School expansion project. The 120,000 sf Cypress Street building achieved an EUI of 29.5 kBtu/sf at schematic design, which will save an estimated 37% in annual energy costs and an estimated 42.7% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions (over the baseline).

The subcommittee in collaboration with Building and Planning staff will prepare a second interim report to describe recommended process adjustments on net zero projects.

7. Installing Solar Photovoltaic Panels

In conjunction with the Deputy Town Administrator and Town Counsel’s Office, staff, with SBCAC oversight, worked hard to finalize contracts with Blue Wave Capital for solar photovoltaic panel installations on several municipal properties with the goal of installing the panels in 2017. However, the State had issues with the developer’s net metering agreement for Melrose (on which the Brookline agreements would be based), and that means that the Town is not likely to complete the Blue Wave contracts.

Staff will examine other opportunities for installation of PV arrays on Town buildings, however. Until the landfill capping project at the transfer station is completed, scoping out a solar canopy project at the transfer station is on hold.

8. Promoting Installation of Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

Following a vote to refer several EV Charging Warrant Articles at the Fall 2016 Town Meeting, the SBCAC formed a study committee, chaired by Linda Olson Pehlke, on how best to encourage the installation of Level 2 charging stations for electric vehicles. The subcommittee in collaboration with Planning Department and Transportation Division staff and citizen petitioner Scott Ananian submitted a report to Town Meeting Spring 2017 that presented several paths and the mechanisms that would be required to implement the options. The most impactful and least complicated option involved updating the Town’s Transportation Access Plan guidelines.

In January 2018 the Department of Public Works updated its TAP guidelines as follows:

Projects at least 25,000 sf or 25 residential units are required to have either one parking space or 2% of parking spaces (whichever is greater) installed with electric vehicle charging stations and that an additional 15% of parking spaces have conduit to accommodate the installation of electric vehicle charging stations in the future.

The provision was applied as a condition on a permitted Chapter 40B project on Babcock Street.

9. Hosting Public Hearings on Warrant Articles Related to Sustainability

The SBCAC members hosted public hearings and made recommendations to Town Meeting on warrant articles that address issues impacting sustainability, including an amendment to the erosion and sediment control bylaw to reduce indiscriminate clear cutting of trees on private property. Enhancing the Town’s tree canopy is a key mitigation strategy of the Climate Action Plan 2018.

10. Updating Open Space Plan

Werner Lohe and Deborah Rivers have been serving on the Climate Change subcommittee for the Open Space Plan update during 2016-2017.  The focus of this subcommittee has been to bring greater awareness of the potential impacts of climate change on the Town and the role that parks and open space can play in the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation to the effects of climate change. Specific topics include heat island effect, storm water management, and the effect of methane leaks on trees. It is anticipated that the final report will be issued in mid-2018, with a presentation to the public.