Do Not Weaken Amherst's Net Zero Settlement

One of Amherst’s most important measures to combat climate change and advance the city’s climate goals, our groundbreaking Zero Energy (n...

One of Amherst’s most important measures to combat climate change and advance the city’s climate goals, our groundbreaking Zero Energy (net-zero) bylaw, is in danger of being undermined.

The net zero municipal bylaw requires that major new municipal building projects in Amherst be designed with high energy efficiency and renewable energy systems, such as solar panels, to supply all of the building’s energy. These regulations were expressly promulgated “to help counter and prevent the effects of global climate change”.

Before the first municipal building to be constructed under the net zero bylaw, the planned new Amherst Elementary School, could even start, three Amherst city councilors suggested that the council consider rewriting the bylaw.

At the February 28 special council meeting on the school, council chairwoman Lynn Griesemer said it was the “responsibility of council to determine whether we should at some point review the by-law on net zero energy with respect to this project. Councilor Mandi Jo Hanneke pointedly asked, “Should we consider changing Net Zero. . . Regulations to give us a little more leeway depending on the costs? Have we . . . this leeway already in the regulations, or do we need changes to these regulations, and do we need to work on them now? »

Councilor Cathy Schoen noted the bylaw’s “restrictions on what we must own versus [where] we can enter into purchase agreements. So . . . I think we might want to, at a sub-committee level, raise some issues and bring them back to the Council, because we [the School Building subcommittee] wouldn’t be able to change the rules…”

Changing the net zero regulation, again, especially for any wiggle room to excuse the school from its provisions, would be a serious climate mistake. It would also show bad faith toward climate advocates who painstakingly negotiated a cost-conscious revision of the bylaw with city officials for the 2018 city assembly (then still Amherst’s legislative body). This 2018 compromise revision passed by an overwhelming vote of 149 to 2, with only five abstentions.

The city originally passed a zero-emissions bylaw in 2017. But some members of the select committee (two of whom sit on Amherst City Council) continued to raise concerns about cost and others about the bylaw, and in In a spirit of compromise, zero energy advocates agreed to negotiate a revision of the settlement.

Four city critics of the 2017 bylaw, including current council chairman Griesemer, met with four representatives of zero-energy advocates, including the three of us. Over nine meetings, the group developed compromise changes to the by-law to be proposed to the Spring 2018 Municipal Assembly. Key changes to the by-law were explained in a 2018 Report to the Municipal Assembly.

Compromises on the side of zero energy advocates included an agreement to raise the project cost threshold before the settlement applies (from $1 million to $2 million) and to impose a 10% cap costs of renewable energy systems, compared to the regulation. defined the total cost of the project without the renewable energy systems.

We have been criticized by some members of the environmental community for negotiating these concessions. But we felt that there were significant climate gains in the revision of the compromise.

For example, a significant change was language explicitly requiring “highly efficient standards to minimize project energy requirements and incorporate renewable energy systems with sufficient capacity to supply the necessary energy”. Another, as the 2018 report to Town Meeting explained, was to require these renewable systems to be owned by the city, at least up to the 10% cap.

Since establishing a specific numerical regulatory standard for building energy efficiency would have been a challenge for the variety of possible buildings covered, the provision on city property served an important function of incentivizing efficiency. high energy consumption, because unnecessary energy consumption would have a direct cost for the city. how many solar panels he should buy for the project. This provision also favored solar power owned by municipalities, rather than solar power owned by large solar companies.

We all knew that tackling climate change would likely require upfront investments, including for construction projects. The advantage of these investments is that they pay for themselves over time, in terms of reduced energy costs and avoided climate impacts.

It was wise to commit to net zero in 2017, and again in 2018. If you agree with this wisdom, tell the city council at Town-Council-33/General-Public-Comment -185: Do not weaken the Net Zero regulation.

Anne Perkins, Rudy Perkins (no relation) and Christopher Riddle live in Amherst.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Do Not Weaken Amherst's Net Zero Settlement
Do Not Weaken Amherst's Net Zero Settlement
Newsrust - US Top News
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