Sustainable Arlington - Sep 25th, 2019

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Planning Department Update. Kelly Lynema gives an update from the planning department. The town's net zero planning efforts are ramping up. Energy Director Ken Pruitt is organizing a volunteer training for the town's greenhouse gas inventory. Volunteers would need to input data into the town's inventory system; this would be approximately a 12 hour/year commitment. The Clean Energy committee needs help reviewing the 2005 greenhouse gas action plan, to determine what has and hasn't been done. Contact Ken Pruitt if you're interested.

MAPC is working with Arlington and other towns, to assist them in putting these inventories together. We're planning to have a public engagement in January, to present the inventory and figure out how to get to net zero.

Gas Leaks Task Force. The task force started meeting a few months ago. Mothers out Front has mapped all of the known gas leaks in town. There were 177 leaks in 2016, and there are over 300 now. The town manager's task force was formed in response to discovering how many leaks there were. There are approximately 16,000 active gas leaks in the state. These leaks kill trees an exacerbate problems with asthma. Plus, methane is 84x more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2. Over twenty towns are looking at gas leaks now, and hoping to get more clout to negotiate with the gas companies and expedite repairs.

Brucie Moulton shows a report called "Rolling the Dice: an assessment of gas safety in Massachusetts".

The FUTURE act and other legislative efforts to address climate change. This section is a presentation by BeeJay Baatz, where she compares two 100% clean energy bills currently in the Massachusetts Legislature.

A prior report on climate change estimated that by 2050, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80% of 1995 levels. The current thinking is that we need to get to net zero by 2050. About 60% of Massachusetts is forest land, but we pull out and sequester a very small percentage of the greenhouse gases we produce. This is a major obstacle towards getting to net zero.

The MA bills are H.2836/S.1958 which is an act to enable clean energy. There's also H.3983 which is a roadmap bill.

Ms. Baatz reviews some terminology before getting into the discussion. Clean energy refers to energy sources that don't produce greenhouse gases. This includes renewable and non-renewable sources. Renewable energy refers to Class I and Class II renewable energy sources. The difference between the classes is largely a function of when the source was built. Electricity can be produced from clean sources or dirty sources. Dispatchable sources can produce electricity on demand. Nuclear and hydro are dispatchable clean energy sources. Wind and solar are not dispatchable, because the weather doesn't always cooperate.

By 2050, we'll need to double our electricity production, but that production has to generate less greenhouse gas. Currently, about 46% of the energy produced in MA is clean.

20% of our clean energy comes from Class I and Class II renewables. Large solar farms are cost-competitive with natural gas, but solar energy production doesn't match the seasonal demand curve. To rely on solar, we'd need the ability to store 3--4 months of power in reserve. That's why dispatchable sources are important.

We may be able to meet 80% of our energy needs from wind and solar, which means we need something to make up the difference. Nuclear and Hydro power are not permitted under the current clean energy bill.

Aside from electricity production, agriculture, industry and waste produce greenhouse gases. A large portion of our greenhouse gases come from individual transportation (i.e., automobiles).

There are additional things we have to consider when transitioning to net zero. There's currently no way to power long haul flights or large ships with clean energy, but the technology for battery powered planes is improving. By 2050, only a third of our buildings will be net zero. Many of the buildings that will exist in 2050 already exist now, and it will be expensive to retrofit them.

The Nantucket wind farm is being contested, and it looks like it's not going to be built.

One of the big questions is how to legislate GHG emissions. And, should we allow clean energy, renewable energy, or both? Our choices should be cost-effective, and should preserve our thriving economy.

The clean energy bill will establish a nineteen-member administrative council that's charged with developing an implementation plan and establishing interim goals. The bill will also set up a fifteen-member research group to work with the department of energy. The description goes on -- this is an elaborate proposal with a lot of moving parts.

The roadmap bill borrows an idea from the EU's methodology, and is based on backcasting (i.e., backwards planning). Planning is restricted to commercially viable technology and things we already know how to do. The roadmap can be updated as new technologies develop.

The roadmap bill is based on three-year sprints. Every 2.5 years, the forecast and models are updated, discussed, and adjusted.

These bills are currently sitting in the house ways and means committee. Mothers out front has endorsed both bills.

Switzerland currently gets 30% of their electricity from nuclear power. The country voted via national referendum to transition to 100% renewable energy. They're planning to build artificial waterfalls in the Alps in order to get dispatchable energy. They'd pump the water up the Alps when the energy is available to do so. Then, they'd capture the energy from the water flowing down.

Ms. Baatz and Ms. Moulton presented the future act to the select board, as members of Mothers out Front. The board asked them to continue the discussion on Oct 7th, when Adam Chapdelaine would be present. They're asking the town to adopt a resolution with many of the goals from H.2849/S.1940.

Sustainable Arlington may want to consider endorsing the future act resolution. The goal is to state support for moving away from natural gas as an source of electricity.

40% of the GHGs in Arlington come from homes. In most other communities, that number is 27%. Arlington is a "bedroom community", and that's one of the reasons why so much of our GHGs come from housing. is the website for a group that's opposing a natural gas compressor station in Weymouth.

True Story Theater. True Story held an event this past weekend, where the theme was stories about environmental activism. There was a good, diverse turnout. People talked about what the climate crisis means to them, and what they're trying to do about it.

Events. We have a date for the next Ecofest: March 21, 2020 at Arlington town hall. The theme will be resilience around climate change.

Harvest your energy festival, Oct 19th in Medford.

Medford fixit clinic, Oct 20th.

Arlington fixit clinic and clothing swap. Nov 3rd, 1--4pm at Thompson school.

Tom Ehbrecht is planning to organize coffee meetups, to coordinate groups working on environmental issues.

Native Plants. Non-native plants don't do a good job of supporting native pollinators and birds. Planting natives is a very important step. It would be nice to have a working group to educate people about this, so we could have more native plants and fewer lawns.

Other announcements. The 30% tax credit for Heatsmart expires at the end of this year. Next year's credit will be 26%.