BY DIANE CHURCH
PLAINVILLE — The town broke the ice on the Clean Energy Communities program, becoming the first in the state to sign on to the program that encourages communities to support energy efficiency and renewable energy sources.
On Monday the Town Council unanimously approved participating in the program and Tuesday evening Town Manager Robert Lee, surrounded by council members, signed the document at a ceremony.
“The goal is to encourage towns to decrease energy use,” said Lee. “If we reduce energy use by 20 percent by 2018, the town can receive grants for other projects.”
Under the program, an initiative through the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund and the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority, a community pledges to reduce its municipal building energy consumption by 20 percent by 2018 and to purchase 20 percent of its municipal energy needs from clean renewable sources by 2018. CEEF and CEFIA are expected to help guide the town toward these goals.
If the community succeeds, it is eligible to earn clean-energy systems and grants that can be used toward energy efficiency projects. There is no penalty, however, if the town does not meet the goals.
Lee said the town will use fiscal year 2008-09 as a benchmark for fuel usage. Since then the municipal center has converted its heating system from oil to natural gas, which burns cleaner, and switched some light bulbs to energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.
Three schools also have solar panels on their roofs.
“Now we have to start getting other ideas,” Lee said.
Rebecca Meyer, a senior program administrator at CL&P, said residential energy-saving measures also help the town reach its goal.
Residents can sign up for clean-energy providers through CL&P, have CL&P perform energy audits of their homes and purchase EnergyStar appliances. These actions add to the number of points the town has.
“Plainville will be eligible for a $10,000 Bright Ideas Grant if it gathers 100 points,” Meyer said. “It has 72 now.” Thirty-six of those points are due to 478 households in town already employing energy-saving measures.
“By saving energy, the town is saving money,” she said. “That money can be used for books in the school library or other things. Energy efficiency helps the town save energy, save money and help the environment.”