August 19, 2011

Boston networks solutions: driving demand for clean energy policy

Boston is nationally renowned as a leading “green” city, recently ranked the 5th most sustainable city in the U.S. by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Under Mayor Menino’s leadership, Boston has solidified its position as a hub of innovation in energy policy and program development, from our comprehensive climate action strategy to the 1st in the nation green building zoning, as well as new cutting edge clean energy programs emanating from City Hall.

From the beginning of the mayor’s push to green Boston, he has focused his administration on connecting our environmental and energy policy strategies with job creation and economic growth.

Despite the economic challenges facing the U.S., the cleantech cluster continues to flourish in the Boston region. Cleantech start-ups continue to locate in the Innovation District of the South Boston Waterfront and, according to a recent report released by the Brookings Institution, metro Boston is now the 8th largest green economy in the U.S. Yet we need to move beyond simply pioneering new technologies and services to deploying them at scale in homes and businesses across the region.

When it comes to deployment, cities are uniquely organized to play a key role in aggregating demand for clean energy solutions. Municipal government is closest to the people, providing support to countless local organizations, and delivering many of the basic services people need in their daily lives. These networks can and should be leveraged to bring clean energy solutions to the people. This is where the intersection of our environmental, energy, social and economic goals converge, and where the full potential of the cleantech cluster can be realized.

Here are a few examples of how Boston is aggregating demand for clean energy solutions:

•Renew Boston energy efficiency program – the city is working with local utilities and community based organizations to connect local residents, in particular those harder to reach moderate income families, with energy efficiency services. Over the last year more than 3,300 residents received a home energy assessment and 467 homes were fully weatherized. The city’s residential contractor, Next Step Living, opened its headquarters in the Innovation District and grew from a handful of employees to over 150 today.

•Innovation District Solar Challenge – Boston is driving private-sector adoption of solar PV technologies in Boston as an inaugural city under the US DOE Solar America Cities program, helping property owners capture federal and state incentives for solar. As part of this effort the city is pre-qualifying solar installers for projects to be identified in the growing South Boston waterfront. The goal of the challenge is for businesses and institutions within the South Boston Innovation District to install more than 1MW of solar PV over the next two years.

•Boston Buying Power – after putting our municipal electricity purchase out to competitive bid in 2007, the city worked to bring similar savings to over 1,600 small to medium sized businesses. The city worked with Taylor Consulting to pool these businesses’ electricity purchase needs. The buying pool is now over 520,000,000 Kwh and 35,000,000 therms and has saved $2 million for these businesses since the launch of the program. As part of the procurement, the city was also able to green the procurement, leveraging 20% in renewable energy for 2011.

Boston is now serving as a living laboratory for cleantech – the place to innovate policy ideas, incubate and grow clean energy companies, create new technologies and services, all while creating local jobs. This is just the beginning for Boston. We will continue to drive demand for other green sector services such as capturing food waste for bio gas conversion, expanding bike sharing, or promoting green infrastructure for storm water management. What other cleantech services are ripe for aggregation? What public-private partnerships are taking shape in other communities? What other networks can be leveraged to catalyze deployment clean tech services?

Let’s continue to leverage city and other networks to drive deployment to realize the full range of benefits of the clean tech cluster for the region.


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