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Cleaner energy, lower emissions; Regional plan aims for

Published: Friday, October 26, 2007

Regional planners took their first look Thursday night at a draft plan to cut the Pioneer Valley's energy use and greenhouse gas emissions while siting new ''clean energy'' generation.

The Pioneer Valley Clean Energy Plan, proposed by the Franklin Regional Council of Governments and Pioneer Valley Planning Commission sets four broad gals:

  • Cutting the region's total energy demand back to 2000 levels by 2009, and then cutting that by 15 percent by 2020 –the equivalent of removing 150,000 vehicles from the roads.
  • Siting 100 megawatts of renewable power generation capacity here by 2009 and replacing 15 percent of total fossil and nuclear fuels used for lighting, heating and transportation with clean sources by 2020 — the equivalent of removing another 150,000 vehicles.
  • Cutting greenhouse-gas emissions around the region by 3 percent a year toward meeting a 30 percent reduction from year 2000 levels by 2020, with an 80 percent reduction by 2050.
  • Creating local 'clean-energy'' jobs in what could be ''one of the fastest growing segments of the economy'' from 2010 through 2020.

The ''clean energy'' technologies favored in the plan include solar, wind, small-hydro and biomass-fueled generation.

While the 50-page plan spells out actions for towns, businesses and individuals around the region — and calls for regional initiatives, such as expansion of public transportation and promoting ''Smart Growth'' approaches to development that encourage energy conservation — it avoids encouraging specific energy projects.

After an outpouring of public criticism this spring and summer over listing proposals including a 12 megawatt wind project in Monroe, a biodiesel plant planned for Greenfield Industrial Park, and the 20-home Wisdom Way Solar Village in Greenfield, the plan sidesteps identifying specific projects in part because ''people in our region are not in agreement about what renewable resources, and at what scale, to support.''

''We heard loud and clear we shouldn't be listing projects,'' Franklin Regional COG Planning Director Margaret Sloan told the board, which will be asked in January to endorse the plan. ''It was sort of implied that we were endorsing projects, and that was never our intent.''

The draft plan, created by the two planning regions with help from a 26-member advisory panel and comments gleaned from public hearings and an interactive Web site, recommends that proposed generation projects should reduce fossil-fuel and nuclear energy use, involve a ''community scale'' favoring community ownership, increase employment and the affordability of ''clean energy'' by low- and moderate-income consumers.

It sets specific goals for reducing electrical usage, energy for transportation and heating by 2009 and 2020 and estimates that the region's reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and renewable energy production be 10 percent of the state's targets, based on the Pioneer Valley's proportional population.

Industrial and transportation energy use reductions each account for 30 percent of the future goals, while building efficiency accounts for 40 percent.

Among its recommendations are for towns to join Local Governments for Sustainability Cities for Climate Protection and develop and implement a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050, to host or own a clean-energy generating plant and adopt bylaws or ordinances to encourage green buildings, energy efficiency and sustainable development.

For individuals, it recommends getting a free home energy audit from Mass Save and implementing as many recommendations as possible to cut energy use.

Sloan said 100 new energy technician jobs are expected to be created over the next three years, along with 60 related internships in the three-county area.

Over the next 10 years, energy efficiency — providing the ''most bang for the buck'' — could result in saving more than 8,300 megawatts of electricity, or nearly one-third of the total peak summer capacity, Sloan said, and can save consumers $65 million to $87 million because of lower wholesale supply costs. It would also reduce the need for building additional generating plants.

''To satisfy the goals of a 15 percent reduction in total energy consumption and a 15 percent reduction in the use of dirty energy, representatives from all sectors should begin implementation as soon as possible,'' the plan recommends, proposing that everyone begin with the easiest steps of energy efficiency, use reduction and conservation.

After encountering vocal opposition to a proposed 50-megawatt wood-burning biomass plant in Russell, planners concluded, ''Small-scale distributed generation combined with heat and power biomass plants may be better received in the region than a larger biomass plant that does not use generated heat.''

''We heard a lot from folks,'' Sloan said, ''there really was a very strong preference for renewable energy that provides energy for either a single user or a small district, and it was preferred that be municipally or regionally owned,'' so there can be additional profit and jobs in the region.

Sloan said she intends to present the plan to Franklin County towns this winter and spring to seek their informal endorsement.

On the Web parent web site: www.pvpc.org

You can reach Richie Davis at: rdavis@recorder.com or (413) 772-0261 Ext. 269

Pvpc Renewable Energy Report Enviornment and Land Use 

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