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Area coalition plots own savings

December 2, 2010

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About $16 million in federal stimulus funds was enough to fund just 11 energy-efficiency projects statewide.

A plan administered by the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission to regionalize efforts to make public buildings more energy-efficient was among the 103 proposals that didn’t make the cut. But the commission is forging on with the program, said Dennis DiZoglio, its executive director.

At the core of the initiative, created by the Merrimack Valley Mayors and Managers Coalition, is regionalizing the way communities hire energy service companies to make public buildings more efficient, DiZoglio said. Instead of each community seeking bids from contractors on its own, the new initiative provides a joint effort that shares administration costs and attracts more competitive bids, he said.

“It helps them save money and make [public buildings] more energy-efficient,’’ DiZoglio said. “And at the end of the day, if you have a new boiler, you don’t have to worry about maintenance that much.’’

The participating communities are Amesbury, Boxford, Georgetown, Haverhill, Lawrence, Merrimac, Methuen, Newburyport, and North Andover, joined by the Greater Lawrence Technical School and the Pentucket Regional School District.

Out of eight bid proposals, the coalition selected Framingham-based Ameresco Inc. to perform the energy audits within the next couple of months, with the hope that construction and improvements can commence by spring, DiZoglio said.

At a minimum, communities can use the cost savings from the improvements to help pay for the work, but the hope is to also tap into as many energy-improvement grants or rebates as possible, he said.

“The more successful we are using rebates and grants,’’ DiZoglio said, the more the communities “will be able to put the energy savings in the general fund instead of using them to pay off the improvements. Everything is going in the right direction.’’

KATHELEEN CONTI

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