Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Rick Sullivan today announced a four-year, $6 million grant to form a new UMass Amherst Energy Extension Initiative. It will serve as a resource on renewable and clean energy options for cities and towns, industry, hospitals, colleges and universities, nonprofits and other organizations across the Commonwealth.
“This investment shows the Patrick administration is committed to keeping Massachusetts a national clean energy leader,” said Secretary Sullivan. “The initiative will help municipalities as well as organizations across the Commonwealth cut their energy use, create jobs and protect the environment.”
He made the announcement during a day-long workshop, “Helping Communities with Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency,” today on the UMass Amherst campus for city and town energy managers, mayors, other officials, businesses and planners.
The UMass Amherst Energy Extension Initiative created by the grant will promote adoption of renewable energy technology and energy efficiency activities across the state. It represents a significant, statewide practical step toward reaching goals set out in the Commonwealth’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2008, as well as for advancing the Patrick Administration’s overall clean energy goals.
About $2 million of the grant, funded by the Department of Energy Resources (DOER), will go to expand services at the U.S. Department of Energy Northeast Clean Energy Application Center, while $4 million will go to develop an energy outreach and extension-type program that draws on UMass Amherst experts. The campus’s existing Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (CEERE) will administratively host the new initiative.
UMass Amherst Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy said, “This is a great vote of confidence by the state and recognition of UMass Amherst’s leadership in sustainability and energy efficiency initiatives. We are honored by the trust placed in us by the governor and enthusiastically accept the challenge to be the go-to place for town and city energy managers across Massachusetts, as the clearinghouse for renewable energy and energy efficiency.”
DOER Commissioner Mark Sylvia said, “This initiative is another example of how the Patrick administration has put into place strong policies and made strategic investments to help expand the adoption of clean energy across the Commonwealth.”
UMass Amherst energy economist David Damery, who helped to organize today’s workshop, said, “There are hundreds of energy decision makers in the state who can benefit from this new initiative. The idea is to support greater adoption of combined heat and power systems, energy efficiency, renewable thermal, wind, solar and other renewable energy by sponsoring research, marketing studies, business plans, outreach, economic analysis, technology transfer, pilot projects, technical assistance and whatever else it takes.”
The new initiative will mobilize information on the latest technologies, provide demonstration and community-scale testbed projects to identify and lower the financial, social, technical and political barriers to wider deployment and use of renewable energy, energy efficiency, renewable thermal energy, and combined heat and power practices in Massachusetts.
After four years, the initiative is expected to be self-sustaining through user fees, partnering on patentable intellectual property opportunities and through other avenues. UMass Amherst is expected to hire two new extension professors and some additional engineering support staff for the program.
The Patrick administration’s aggressive clean energy initiatives have made Massachusetts a leader in energy efficiency, renewable energy and emissions reductions. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy has named Massachusetts number one for three years running. Governor Patrick has set a new solar goal after reaching the previous goal of 250 megawatts four years early. The Commonwealth now aims to install 1,600 megawatts of solar capacity by 2020. The clean energy revolution is yielding economic benefits as well, with 11.8 percent job growth in the last year; nearly 80,000 people are employed in the cleantech industry in Massachusetts.