As part of its sustainability efforts, Beverly held a National Drive Electric Week event last year that allowed residents to tour an electric school bus, test an electric scooter and bike, and take in an electric car show. (Photo courtesy city of Beverly)

After receiving national recognition for two climate programs, Beverly Mayor Michael Cahill said the city’s resilience and sustainability efforts reflect a larger City Hall ethos, a community value, and a regional priority.

In December, Cahill received one of two top honors from the Mayors Climate Protection Awards, a partnership between the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Walmart to recognize mayors for their climate work. The award focused on two Beverly efforts: the conversion of its vehicle fleet to electric, and its Green Schools Program, which involves making buildings more energy efficient. Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll also received an honorable mention for her work on Resilient Together, a Beverly-Salem collaboration to address climate change.

Whether it involves vehicle electrification or the greening of city buildings, the coastal city of Beverly has made climate work a central focus to protect its future.

“This is really embedded in all of the work that everybody in city government does,” Cahill said. “It’s our law department, our finance department, our procurement department, engineering, planning, public works, police, fire. Everybody’s engaged and trying to do their part with this. We’ve got great partners in our City Council, our School Committee, our school administration, in order to make these things happen.”

With about 200 vehicles between its school and municipal fleets, Beverly has been buying electric vehicles and converting others to hybrid, and has installed about two dozen electric vehicle charging stations in municipal parking lots. The city has purchased two electric police vehicles and leased two more, and has hybridized nine school vehicles, including six half-buses and three vans. When purchasing new vehicles, department heads are expected to research hybrid and electric alternatives first before requesting a gas or diesel vehicle.

Beverly has also been buying full-size electric school buses, with two already in service and three more on order. The buses have vehicle-to-grid technology, allowing them to charge up during off-peak times, and then send electricity back to the grid during high-demand periods. The city told the U.S. Conference of Mayors that it was hoping to electrify its school fleet by 2030.

Electrifying a vehicle fleet does pose challenges, said Erina Keefe, Beverly’s sustainability director. Electric vehicles still cost more than their traditional counterparts, and some municipal vehicles, such as heavy dump trucks, don’t lend themselves to electric technology, though the options are improving.

“The technology has changed so rapidly that things that weren’t economical a decade ago or didn’t perform as well as they needed to a decade ago are now feasible, and they’re now affordable, and they’re effective,” Keefe said.

Cahill’s award also focused on Beverly’s Green Schools program, which has included the construction of a new energy-efficient middle school, and the installation of solar panels, and upgraded heating, cooling and ventilation systems, as well as vehicle charging stations. Beverly Public Services Commissioner Michael Collins has taken the lead on that work, Cahill said.

Beverly has also been upgrading buildings citywide. A new police station has an underground geothermal heating and cooling system, and will have solar panels on its roof and in the parking lot. And the city is also about to start construction on a multi-site solar project to put panels on the roofs of the middle school, City Hall and the senior center and over several parking lots, as well as updating a ground-mounted solar array at the high school.

Work also continues with Salem through Resilient Together. The cities recently received an Accelerating Climate Resiliency grant from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council for community outreach and training to help more residents access utility-sponsored energy retrofitting work, officials said.

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