In 2008, Massachusetts enacted the Green Communities Act (S.B. 2768), creating the Green Communities Division within the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to support Massachusetts communities efforts towards a sustainable future, specifically in terms of energy use.
The Green Communities Division offers educational, technical, and networking support to the states' communities. In addition, they provide financial incentives. The Green Communities Grant Program offers funding for communities investing in energy efficiency upgrades and policies, renewable energy technologies, and energy management systems and services.
To be eligible, communities first must apply for and achieve official designation as a "Green Community." The basic steps required for this designation include:
- Stipulate "as-of-right" siting for renewable energy (or alternative energy) generation, manufacturing, or research and development (via ordinance)
- Provide for expedited application and permitting processes for those facilities sited in "as-of-right" designated locations
- Establish an energy baseline and adopt a five-year Energy Reduction Plan (ERP) to reduce energy use by 20%
- Adopt a policy and procure only fuel-efficient vehicles
- Establish requirements to minimize life-cycle energy costs for new construction (suggested route for achieving this step is via adoption of "Stretch Code". See the program website for more information).
The Green Communities Division provides several model ordinances and guides and is staffed with energy experts to help communities take these steps to earn designation. As of December 2022, there are 290 officially designated Green Communities in Massachusetts. At the time of designation, the Green Communities Division will inform the municipality of its grant amount, which is based on the available funds, the number of applications, and a grant formula. Then, the Green Community is invited to submit a grant application with proposed projects for the grant amount. The Program Guidance can be found here.