READING - The Town of Reading recently inked a contract with a national energy consultant in an effort to slash $4 million from the town’s utility bills while also moving the community closer to being officially designated a “Green Community”.

According to Town Manager Fidel Maltez and Jayne Wellman, Reading’s business administrator, the community recently retained the consulting services of Noresco to help the community realize $4 million in energy savings over the coming years.

The national firm, which has regional offices based in Westborough, Mass., already helped the town realize some $3.6 million in other energy efficiency savings through a previous 2009 contract.

“Energy conservation is a priority we hear about daily from our residents and local leaders,” said Town Manager Fidel Maltez in a prepared statement. “This new initiative builds on the tremendous success between the town and Noresco’s first performance contracting effort and will inevitably pay dividends into the future while also securing a more energy efficient community.”

“We are honored to continue to serve the Town of Reading with this project,” Jim Williams, a senior vice president at the consulting firm, also said of the new partnership. “Reducing energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions, addressing critical equipment at the end of its useful life and making buildings more comfortable for students, staff, faculty and town residents are worthy results of this community’s work.”

According to town officials, thanks to previous Noresco recommendations, the town through the latest joint venture with the consulting firm should be able to demonstrate that can slash overall energy costs by at least 20 percent over the next five years.

That milestone is an important marker as Reading continues its efforts to earn a state “Green Communities” designation, which would result in the town becoming eligible for millions of dollars in annual grant funding. The “Green Communities” label would also allow Reading to apply for utility company rebates to help defray the costs of “ future green energy initiatives being pursued by the community.

“When the Massachusetts Green Communities Act of 2008 was legislated, the Town of Reading was among the commonwealth’s early leaders to take advantage of new procurement methods to implement efficiency projects with guaranteed results. Noresco guaranteed and delivered more than $3.6 million in savings to the town through a contract entered in 2009, saving even more than promised,” said town officials of that ongoing effort to obtain the state designation.

“Now, the Town of Reading is leveraging performance contracting and NORESCO’s expert knowledge of buildings once again to capitalize on gains in equipment efficiency, boost comfort conditions in town buildings and improve learning environments in schools,” the town manager and Wellman added in a recent press release.

Noresco officials plan to meet its latest 12 percent energy savings target by focusing on several key energy conservation measures, including:

• LED interior and exterior lighting upgrades, providing impactful energy consumption reduction and delivering more consistent light levels, improved color rendering and reduced maintenance requirement;

• New high-efficiency boilers, allowing heating and hot water systems to function more reliably and efficiently;

• New standardized energy management system equipment and control strategies to improve system functionality and ventilation control;

• A new energy-efficient, air-cooled condensing unit at the Police Station, including removal of the old equipment and obsolete refrigerant;

• and new high-efficiency transformers, motors and variable frequency drives resulting in further energy savings.

Since the Green Communities program was established back in 2008, the state has awarded more than $120 million to cities and towns to help communities reduce electricity and heating costs. As of last year, there were 271 designated “green” communities across the state.

In 2020, the town partnered with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, a quasi-public agency, to help the town make to the Green Community program finish-line. Last summer, Reading began consulting with Noresco about how to achieve the 20 percent energy reduction target.

Once Reading clears that hurdle, it will have achieved five of the six program criteria. Other actions taken by Reading’s leaders to become eligible for grant funding include adopting a hybrid vehicle policy, implementing zoning and permitting changes to make it easier for clean energy companies to relocate to the town, and accepting the state’s “Stretch” building code.

State Rep. Richard Haggerty has recently filed legislation to exempt the community from the sixth criterion, which would require RMLD to adopt a renewable energies surcharge that applies to all four towns served by the non-profit utility. Haggerty has suggested that surcharge, which helps fund the state program, should only apply to customers who reside in communities pursuing the “green community” label.

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