The Department of Energy Resources has announced a new program that builds on the Green Communities designation and grant program.

The Climate Leader Communities program will support municipalities seeking to meet their own greenhouse gas reduction targets with a focus on emissions reduction for municipal operations and the wider community.

Climate Leader Communities will have access to tools and resources to help reduce emissions through electrification as well as maximizing efficiency of buildings and transportation.

Certification as Climate Leader Community will open doors to grant funding to support all or portions of costs for: siting activities and construction of renewable energy generating facilities on municipal property; adoption of energy efficiency policies; procurement of energy management services; and the study, design, construction and implementation of energy efficiency activities, measures and projects.

Municipalities seeking Climate Leader Community certification must meet the following criteria:
• Be a Green Community in good standing
• Have a local body that advises the municipality on clean energy/climate initiatives, such as a sustainability committee, energy committee, or similar
• Commit to eliminate on-site fossil fuel use in municipal buildings and operations by 2050 through a resolution, climate action plan, or CMO affirmation
• Create a municipal decarbonization roadmap
• Adopt a zero-emission-vehicle-first policy
• Adopt the specialized opt-in building code

The decarbonization roadmap must outline how a community will decarbonize town and school buildings, drinking water and wastewater treatment plants, pumping stations, open spaces and vehicles. The roadmap should address “trigger events” for electrification or the installation of solar and storage opportunities, such as substantial renovations, replacement of equipment or roofs, or changes of use.

Technical assistance is being offered to communities for developing a municipal decarbonization roadmap, and Expression of Interest forms are due by Nov. 10. The interest form is not a formal application, but will help the department plan how to allocate resources. Technical assistance is expected to be awarded this winter.

Climate Leader Communities program guidance and eligibility criteria is posted on the program’s website. The DOER held an introductory webinar on Oct. 17, and the slideshow presentation is available online.

Applications to become certified as a Climate Leader Community for fiscal 2025 will be accepted through June 30, 2024. Interested municipalities should contact their Green Communities Regional Coordinator to access the online certification application system.

Green Communities grants
The launch of the Climate Leader Communities program follows the latest round of Green Communities competitive grant awards, announced on Sept. 28, with $3.3 million going to 27 municipalities across Massachusetts for clean energy projects.

Projects include the acquisition of hybrid police cruisers, battery-electric vehicles, EV charging stations, and air-source heat pumps. Other awards will help fund ventilation system upgrades, high efficiency lighting, and insulation and energy management systems in municipal buildings and facilities. (See the full list of projects in this round.)

The Green Communities Program has awarded more than $170 million in grants since 2010, and 291 municipalities are now Green Communities.

View the list of all Green Communities awarded projects

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