June 23, 2022

Energy consumption increases but costs remain stable | Winchester

WINCHESTER – The select council heard from energy management co-ordinator Susan McPhee and new sustainability director Ken Pruitt when they last met this week.

McPhee mentioned that although energy consumption has increased due to COVID and HVAC units running constantly to keep air flowing, the city has managed to control energy costs. The city budgets about $2 million for energy costs in the annual budget, and McPhee said those numbers remain stable.

Going forward, she said the city expects to do more energy-related projects, but not using taxpayer dollars. She mentioned receiving $2 million in grants for LED lights and boiler changes. Last year, the city received grants from the green community for LED lighting for the police station ($32,000), DPW ($27,000) and Ambrose Elementary School ($7,000), as well as outside the town hall.

The city has also weatherized the Lynch School and will employ MassSaves on the next Lynch School project. Overall, the city continues to aim for net zero energy by offsetting all energy consumption with on-site renewable energy.

When asked to comment on the Lynch project, McPhee said the new school has the potential to achieve net zero energy, which she says needs to be done early in the project. She added that the Massachusetts School Building Authority is on board with this idea and is working with utility companies (though they haven’t made any official policy changes yet).

Board member Mariano Goluboff asked about the potential for using electricity to heat the Lynch Building, as opposed to gas or oil, and McPhee said they could consider all options .

When asked by President Susan Verdicchio how best to interact with the Educational Facility Planning and Construction Committee, Pruitt responded through a subcommittee. McPhee noted that two EFPBC members are also members of the energy management committee, so some synergy already exists.

Pruitt also spoke about his position and some of the responsibilities that come with it, particularly regarding the grant the city received to help fund it. He said the city received a grant from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council to help fund a sustainability director (the remaining money came from a vote of the city assembly). As such, the grant included certain requirements, such as:

• complete a sustainability website, which Pruitt says is halfway done

• complete a heat response strategy, which according to Pruitt is 75% complete

• Organizing climate events, with the city already hosting two and planning more for this year

The sustainability director said the deadline to complete those requirements was March 15.

Pruitt also mentioned the climate action plan whose goals included reducing the city’s carbon pollution by 80% by 2050 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He said 76% of those emissions came from residential households and 18% from commercial properties. Only three percent come from municipal buildings.

Pruitt talked about some additional projects such as the Lynch School redesign where he hoped to advocate for an all-electric sustainable building; City Hall HVAC unit upgrades; a Municipal Vulnerability Readiness Grant for which the Director of Sustainability has already prepared an Expression of Interest; and EV charging stations.

Speaking on that last point, Pruitt asked the Select Board to change a vote it took last March that allowed DC Fast EV charging stations to be installed in the Jenks Center parking lot. Instead, he asked the council to change this to allow “generic” charging stations. He said he had conversations with Eversource about installing charging stations at no cost to the city to take advantage of an attractive opportunity.

The board voted unanimously to change its original vote taken back in March 2021.

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