How the Boston area is weaning itself off fossil fuels

Cities and towns across Massachusetts are prioritizing bus-only lanes, offering electric vehicle chargers and installing solar panels. These and other steps are taken to reduce their carbon footprint, according to an annual report on how local communities are going green.

What is happening: The Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center highlighted a handful of Boston-area communities that are leading the way in the clean energy transition in its “Renewable Communities” report, released last week.

Why is this important: Massachusetts has until 2050 to reduce its carbon emissions by 100% from 1990 levels.

Here’s what stood out.

Melrose: EV chargers on poles

city ​​officials, in conjunction with National Grid, are adding 16 electric vehicle chargers to utility poles for curbside use this year.

  • This is the first project on the East Coast to install chargers on utility poles, which is less expensive than buried installations.
  • The new stations make electric vehicle charging accessible to motorists who live in apartments or condos, and who therefore might not have a driveway or garage where they could install a home charging system.

How it works: Chargers tap into overhead power lines.

  • Drivers use the AmpUp smartphone app to check in and pay for charging.
  • The average session costs $2.78, according to National Grid, although vehicles tend to cost $6 for a full charge.

The context: The chargers come as a new climate law, which the governor signed into law last week, offers rebates for EV purchases.

Price tag: City officials and National Grid did not disclose the cost, except to say National Grid is helping to cover it through its electric vehicle charging station program.

Boston: Downtown Bus Lanes

The MBTA and city officials last October introduced dedicated bus lanes on Columbus Avenue, the first of their kind in New England.

  • The lanes give MBTA buses more room to travel, reducing traffic-related delays, in the hope that riders will opt for public transit instead of carpooling or driving.
  • Red-lined bus lanes run between Walnut Street and Jackson Square, along part of the 22, 29 and 44 bus routes.

Price tag: $14 million (Boston paid $1 million and the MBTA paid the rest).

Yes and: The city plans to create dedicated bus lanes on Blue Hill Avenue.

Boston: Solar in Eastie

City officials in May announced a pilot program with the nonprofit Green Roots to increase rooftop solar power and battery storage in East Boston, a predominantly immigrant and working-class neighborhood.

  • Under this program, homeowners can get a 15% rebate on installation costs and some homeowners can get grants.

Why is this important: Using rooftop solar panels reduces greenhouse gas emissions and can reduce energy costs.

  • Panels can also generate additional electricity that can be used to help meet demand during peak hours.

So far, 38 households expressed interest in solar panels in early August, according to a presentation by Kate England, the city’s director of green infrastructure. But most have not signed contracts to go ahead with the installation.

Price tag: Neither the report nor city officials disclosed the cost of the pilot program.

Brookline: Geothermal Pumps

Brookline updated plans for his new district school, which is expected to open in 2023, will include a geothermal heat pump system for heating and cooling.

  • Unlike air-source heat pumps, which use outdoor air to heat or cool a building, ground-source heat pumps rely on groundwater and underground air.
  • Proponents say underground air temperatures tend to be more stable than outside air temperatures – especially during harsh winters or heat waves – and require less energy to heat or cool. a building.

Price tag: Members of the municipal assembly agreed to borrow $4.9 million last October to install the heating system.

Fun fact: The city estimates that the heat pumps will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 188,000 kilograms per year.

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