The towns of Aquinnah and Chilmark received a grant from the US Department of Energy. The grant, which comes from the Department of Energy’s Energy Transition Initiative Partnership Project (ETIPP), has no monetary aspect, but will instead provide technical expertise to the two cities to prepare municipal buildings for the 2040 energy goals.
“The neighboring towns of Aquinnah and Chilmark on the island of Martha’s Vineyard will work together on technical assistance in three areas to help them achieve 100% renewable energy by 2040 with retrofits for municipal buildings, distributed energy resources and microgrids,” said a states Department of Energy press release. “The project will help both cities identify appropriate energy efficiency and high-impact renewable energy solutions to improve energy resilience and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Bill Lake, chair of Aquinnah’s climate and energy committee, said he was “delighted” that the two towns won the grant.
Chilmark Energy Committee Chairman Rob Hannemann told The Times that Aquinnah and Chilmark were chosen from among 12 other grant recipients across the country.
US Energy Secretary Jennifer M. Granholm described the grant as benefiting communities such as Aquinnah and Chilmark, which are on islands and “remote.”
“As climate change intensifies, remote and island communities, which experience higher energy costs and may lack the financial resources and expertise to make their energy systems more resilient, are more exposed to extreme weather events,” Granholm said in a statement. “The DOE will connect 12 additional communities to our world-class National Laboratories to implement strategic, locally tailored clean energy and resilience solutions, supporting the country’s just transition to a net zero economy.
“So what this grant allows us to do is develop detailed plans for our cities that give us cost/benefit information,” Hannemann said. He clarified that grant aid provides “a technically informed cost/benefit analysis to be used in developing plans”.
Hannemann went on to say, “We’re at kind of a transition point in our island’s efforts to address climate change, in that we’ve figured out what kind of goals we should have. We now have many people involved in our efforts. But the next step, he said, will be “a little more difficult” than the previous steps.
“We need to make our municipal buildings fossil fuel free within the next 15 to 20 years,” he said. “And we also want to make these buildings resilient, so that actually if we have difficulty with storms or other things, we can keep our essential services running.”
Hannemann said that could include looping multiple city buildings into a “microgrid.” He expects cities to have access to technical expertise from the Department of Energy for a year or more.
“We know what our goal is,” Lake said. “By 2040, to be out of fossil fuels. Our strategy, we pretty much know it, but what we don’t know are the best tactics.
Aquinnah, along with West Tisbury — the island’s other town — will require all new construction to be all-electric, which is a major achievement, Lake said.
As for the grant, Lake said it would help categorize next steps. “What we don’t know is what’s the best thing to do first, what should be the priorities, what steps to take in the next two or five years to be in the position where we want to be by 2040. ,” Lake said. “So what we really want is DOE experts taking [us] step by step to where we want to go.
Lake went on to say, “We are going to work together. We applied together because Chilmark and Aquinnah are the westernmost and most remote towns on the island and have a lot in common.
“ETIPP will leverage the world-class expertise of DOE experts and national laboratories to advance local clean energy solutions and improve the resilience of the 12 selected communities that, like other remote and island regions, often lack the financial resources and access to experts to plan for a clean energy transition,” according to the press release. “ETIPP employs local community leaders, residents, and organizations for a community-based and inclusive approach by identifying the energy challenges of each community and providing strategic assistance to help them determine and lead their energy transition.”