In 2004, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission initiated a campaign to advocate for sustainable, renewable energy production in Hampshire and Hamden Counties. The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (www.mtpc.org) awarded $30,000 to the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission to research renewable energy initiatives in the Valley, document best practices, identify regulatory and legislative barriers to local implementation and draft model zoning bylaws, subdivision regulations and municipal policies to facilitate renewable energy in the 43 communities of the Pioneer Valley.
The overarching mission of PVPC's Renewable Energy Project (REP) is to protect and advance the interests of consumers and communities in an emerging competitive market for energy supply. The REP reinforces the role of Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC) in stimulating economic activity, creating new jobs, and promoting a cleaner environment throughout the Commonwealth. This project may also provide inspiration and serve as a model for local, regional, national, and international communities.
The objectives of the REP are to maintain and enhance residents' quality of life, local economic vitality, and the quality of the environment. The process of building this community network will incorporate education, consensus-building, and participatory decision-making, thereby promoting social and intergenerational equity.
For the purposes of this project, PVPC considered renewable energy to include biomass, wind, solar photovoltaic, landfill gas, and hydroelectric. Guided by an advisory committee comprised of local experts in planning, energy research and technology, and sustainability, the PVPC project team developed three products:
- Inventory of Resources, Technology Development, Partners and Activities Related to Renewable Energy in the Region.
- Regulatory Assessment: A Review of Issues Concerning Development of Small Scale Renewable Energy and Distributed Generation in the Pioneer Valley Region of Western Massachusetts.
- A Local Official’s Guide to Zoning and Land Use for Renewable Energy.
“A Local Official’s Guide to Zoning and Land Use for Renewable Energy” is an overview of how zoning and land use controls may impact renewable energy development, combined with recommendations to guide local officials in promoting renewable energy. Ultimately, a range of local considerations will determine the form and scope of a town’s renewable energy efforts, and the recommendations provided within the pamphlet are meant to provide a general framework for analyzing a town’s zoning environment and identifying beginning points, as well as longer-term strategies, for the regulatory reform process.