All Things Sustainable

Mark Sandeen is the chair of the Sustainable Lexington Committee

Mark Sandeen is the chair
of the Sustainable Lexington Committee

 

All Things Sustainable

 

 

 

 

 

By Mark Sandeen

Question

Over 400,000 people marched in New York City demanding action on climate change. What is next?

Answer

An amazingly diverse group of people walked in the People’s Climate March in New York City because we are just beginning to realize as a society how urgent it is that we take rapid action to protect the future of our civilization and human life on this planet.

Recent studies show that if we want to maintain a livable climate, there is a limit to the amount of fossil fuels we can burn. And at our current pace, we will hit that limit in just 30 years. That is a pretty sobering thought. The implications are clear – we will need to transition to a 100% clean energy, zero emissions economy in the next 30 years.

Emissions will need to peak soon and begin falling rapidly if we are to avoid catastrophic and irreversible consequences. The investments we make over the next 15 years will determine the future of the world’s climate.

The good news is that this transition is not only technically feasible, but will save us money, strengthen our economy, and provide tremendous health benefits. We have an aging fleet of power plants that were put in place in the 50’s and 60’s and now need to be replaced. We can choose to replace them with more fossil fuel plants and lock our emissions in for the next 50 or 60 years. Or we can make the choice to switch to clean energy power systems – now, today. We have excellent and viable alternatives.

We can put solar panels on our rooftops, parking lots, and landfills. And start driving electric cars. We can build wind turbines and use hydro to fill in the gaps. We can design our new buildings so they use far less energy and unlock the energy savings in our existing buildings. Every dollar invested in energy efficiency yields $4 in energy savings – up to $2 trillion dollars in savings from our commercial buildings alone.

If we choose to replace our aging fossil fuel power plants with renewable replacements and energy efficiency investments, the slightly higher upfront costs will be more than offset by the savings from our reduced fuel costs. And every dollar we spend on a clean energy future is a dollar that stays in our local economy.

We marched in New York City because we are the first generation to feel the effects of climate change and the last generation that can do anything about it. It is time to get to work.

Question

My electric rates are skyrocketing. What can I do?

Answer

Our electricity rates have become increasingly volatile due to our over dependence on natural gas. We saw our electricity rates rise 24% last winter and the trend is accelerating with the Mass DPU approving generation rate hikes of almost 100% for the coming winter. It is clearly time to diversify our energy portfolio.

The increased volatility of our electricity rates makes switching to solar and wind power increasingly attractive. In fact, solar has reached “rate parity” in Massachusetts. Many Solarize Lexington homeowners with good sunny roofs were able to save up to 75% on their electricity bills by locking in a fixed rate for their solar electricity for next 20 years.

For those of you without good sunny roofs, like your lucky neighbors, ask your elected representatives to support community shared solar projects, which will allow you to buy solar power from a nearby solar farm.

 


Sustainable Lexington Committee

Sustainable Lexington is a Town committee appointed by the Board of Selectmen to enhance Lexington’s long-term sustainability and resilience in response to environmental resource and energy challenges.

Email: sustainablelexcmte@lexingtonma.gov

http://www.lexingtonma.gov/committees/sustainablelex.cfm

 

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All Things Sustainable

By Mark Sandeen  |
Chair of the Sustainable Lexington Committee

The Colonial Times is starting a new column this month focused on sustainability.
Curious whether solar power makes sense? How you can lower your energy bills? How our local climate is changing? What we can do to avoid flooding? Will electric cars make a difference? How safe is our water supply? Should I buy my food locally? Ask your sustainability questions here and we’ll have members of the Sustainable Lexington committee get back to you.

 

 

Q:     Can you tell me a little bit about the Sustainable Lexington Committee?

A:      The Sustainable Lexington Committee was appointed by the Board of Selectmen to enhance the Town of Lexington’s sustainability and resilience in response to environmental, resource and energy challenges. We’re a group of town residents who are passionate about creating a sustainable future in Lexington and believe that effort will also improve our quality of life.

Q:     That’s a pretty broad charter. What does that mean in practice and where do you start?

A:       We believe we’ve got to set priorities if we’re going to be effective. We are always looking towards the areas where we can have our biggest impact. Currently our top two priorities are energy and water. When we look at energy, we look at the energy used in our buildings. About 60% of all of Lexington’s energy is used in our buildings and the biggest portion of that energy is used to heat and cool our buildings. So that’s an important focus.

When we think about water, we remember the spring of 2010 when most of Lexington experienced flooded streets and many of us had storm water and/or sewage flooding our basements. Shortly after that our main water supply was interrupted and we had to boil our drinking water. It reminded us of how important our water infrastructure is.

Q:     What are you doing to address energy issues?

A:        We think improving the energy efficiency of our homes is probably the single most important action any of us can take to create a more sustainable future and it is also happens to dramatically reduce our energy bills. I’ve cut my energy costs in half in the last year and my house feels warmer and more comfortable than it did before!

We think this type of result is possible for many homes in Lexington and we’ve made arrangements for two local companies, Sagewell and Next Step Living, to provide free energy assessments for Lexington residents as a way to help you get started. You can get more details at sustainablelexington.org.

Q:     How would I know when it is time to replace my heating system?

A:       Is your furnace or boiler old enough to vote? It’s time. Are you on a first name basis with your repair man? It’s time. Can you hear (or feel) your heating system kick on no matter where you are in your house? It’s time. Are your heating bills skyrocketing? It’s time.

Heating systems have had dramatic improvements in energy efficiency and reliability over the last two decades and they run a lot quieter than older systems. Plus there are great incentives and rebates available from the federal government, from the state, and from NSTAR/National Grid for installing a high efficiency system.

You can get a zero-interest, no money down, HEAT loan from MassSAVE that covers the entire cost of installing a new heating system. That means you won’t have any out of pocket expenses and you’ll lower your energy bill. How can you beat that?

Q:     How is the town performing today and how can we tell if we’re improving?

 A:     As part of this column we’ll be providing examples of how individual residents are making significant changes while improving quality of life and reducing costs. We’ll also be providing regular updates on the town’s overall performance. Over the past few years, our buildings have consumed an equivalent of about 21 million gallons of gasoline. About half of that energy is consumed by commercial/ municipal buildings and about half is residential.

By improving the performance of our homes and increasing the town’s use or energy from renewable resources, we’re confident that we can reduce our consumption levels by 20% over the next ten years. We’ll keep you up to date on how we’re performing against this target.

NEXT STEPS

So please send us your questions and tell us your stories of improvements that you have made via email at questions@sustainablelexington.org or via Twitter @LexSustain. We look forward to hearing from you.

 

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