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Keeping Cool & Warm While Staying Green: Clean Heating and Cooling for Municipalities

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Keeping Cool and Warm While Staying Green

An Introduction to Clean Heating & Cooling (CH&C) Opportunities for Municipalities in Massachusetts

By Braxton Bridgers, Clean Energy Intern

It’s been a hot summer so far. Record heat waves across the globe are making communities throughout the country think differently about the importance of air conditioning. As we reach the dog days of the summer season, many Massachusetts residents will look to their air conditioning units to provide a much-needed respite from the sweltering heat. And once temperatures begin to drop, heating systems will become the first line of defense against the chilly gusts of a New England winter.

Keeping cool and warm throughout the seasons requires a lot of energy. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has reported that cooling and heating activities account for nearly a third of energy use in U.S. households. What’s more, according to the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER), not only does thermal energy account for more than a third of the state’s total energy consumption, but most of our heating (92 percent) is done with fossil fuels. As Massachusetts continues to strive toward achieving its goal of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, the thermal sector is primed with opportunity to reduce the state’s carbon footprint.

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In particular, large municipal buildings such as public housing complexes, schools, and town halls can be great places for municipalities in Massachusetts to reduce their carbon emissions. Almost half of commercial and industrial buildings in the state utilize oil-based heating, according to a report commissioned by DOER and prepared by consulting firms Navigant and Meister Consultants Group.

Clean heating and cooling (CH&C) technologies can act as a cost-effective means for municipalities to lower their energy bills while mitigating carbon emissions. These technologies, such as air-source heat pumps (ASHPs) and solar thermal systems, are well-established and have been proven to be cost-competitive with traditional heating and cooling systems over their lifetimes.

What is Clean Heating and Cooling?

Clean Heating and Cooling technologies are those that utilize renewable or highly efficient alternative heat sources to generate energy for space heating, space cooling, process heat, or hot water. The following chart details CH&C technologies examined within MAPC’s new clean heating and cooling white paper that Massachusetts municipalities may want to consider.

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MAPC is committed to helping towns and cities become more efficient in their energy use by providing technical assistance for the procurement and adoption of CH&C technologies. Our latest white paper, Hot, Cool, Clean: Clean Heating and Cooling Opportunities for Massachusetts Municipalities, provides information on several types of CH&C systems, methods for procuring and financing the systems, and case studies from Massachusetts municipalities that have installed CH&C systems and are already reaping the benefits.

On Wednesday, September 11, 2019, MAPC will host a webinar to present the white paper’s findings to municipalities and other interested stakeholders. Sign up for our webinar here to learn more about the advantages of CH&C systems, as well as funding opportunities to help you kick start your journey to an energy efficient future!

Seven Reasons to Consider Clean Heating & Cooling

From cutting back on energy spending to supporting your local economy, here are seven reasons why your municipality should strive toward an energy-efficient and climate-smart future by adopting CH&C technologies.

  • Reduce energy use – CH&C systems have proven themselves to be highly efficient, in most cases requiring much less energy than traditional forms of heating and cooling. By incorporating these technologies into their energy portfolios, towns and cities can cut back on their usage through gains in efficiency for heating and cooling activities.
  • Reduce energy costs – In addition to decreasing a municipality’s energy use, CH&C technologies can also produce savings on energy bills. By requiring less energy to operate than traditional heating and cooling systems, CH&C technologies allow owners to save on energy costs.
  • Increase comfort – With CH&C technology, users can maximize comfort by allowing users to customize their environment in separate zones.
  • Foster long-term thinking – CH&C systems can provide users with long-term financial benefits due to consistency in operation and maintenance costs.
  • Lead by example – By implementing CH&C technologies, towns and cities can showcase the benefits of efficient heating and cooling systems and set an example for residents and businesses.
  • Generate economic growth – As the clean energy sector continues to grow, the adoption of CH&C technologies has the potential to create new job opportunities by supporting local clean energy businesses and new workforce development options.
  • Increase climate preparedness – In anticipation of rising temperatures and extreme weather driven by climate change, cooling centers will help bolster community resilience. These centers can implement CH&C technologies to support resiliency efforts without adding to the community’s carbon footprint.

Common Barriers for Municipalities (and How to Overcome Them)

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Costs

Costs related to the installation of CH&C systems, as well as capacity to assess CH&C opportunities, are often cited as concerns for municipalities. However, state incentives, innovative funding mechanisms, and assistance from MAPC or other regional entities or technical assistance organizations can provide municipalities with options to support the procurement and deployment of CH&C technologies. While upfront costs for CH&C systems may be high, there are a number of innovative financing mechanisms available to municipalities that lessen the burden of initial costs.

For example, a municipality could enter into a performance contract with an energy services company (ESCO). Within this agreement, the ESCO would be responsible for purchasing and installing the CH&C system, while the municipality would continue to pay a substantial proportion, if not all, of the original utility bill. This arrangement allows for a utility to recoup the upfront costs of the CH&C system through energy savings, and in some cases ownership of the asset is transferred to the municipality at the end of the contract.

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Capacity

Municipalities may not have the staff capacity to explore CH&C resources or expertise to analyze the technology, potentially limiting their ability and initiative to undertake these projects. Regional planning agencies, for instance, can offer guidance in beginning or strengthening a clean heating and cooling project. Through research, educational efforts, and technical assistance, MAPC is here to support municipal CH&C endeavors. State agencies such as the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) and the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) provide resources to towns and cities to assist with CH&C projects, supporting the capacity of municipalities to engage in CH&C projects. By utilizing these resources, Massachusetts towns and cities have the ability to transition towards a sustainable future, and in doing so experience the benefits of clean heating and cooling technologies.

Solar thermal and an air-source heat pump. Source: National Reneweable Energy Lab.
Solar thermal and an air-source heat pump. Source: National Reneweable Energy Lab.

What's Next?

Interested in learning more about CH&C technologies? Read Hot, Cool, Clean: Clean Heating and Cooling Opportunities for Massachusetts Municipalities by clicking and sign up for our webinar on the findings of the white paper here.

If you have any questions regarding the report, please contact Clean Energy Specialist and report-co-author Brooks Winner at 617-933-0785 or bwinner@mapc.org.

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