MassINC’s Gateway Cities Innovation Institute to Honor Six Clean Energy Efforts at Annual Awards and Summit

Event will focus on positioning Gateway Cities to play a leading role in the clean energy transition

November 8, 2023

MassINC’s Gateway Cities Innovation Institute to Honor Six Clean Energy Efforts at Annual Awards and Summit 

Event will focus on positioning Gateway Cities to play a leading role in the clean energy transition  

On Tuesday, November 14, 2023, MassINC’s Gateway Cities Innovation Institute will recognize six cutting-edge efforts to advance clean energy in the state’s regional urban centers.

The 11th Annual Gateway Cities Innovation Institute Awards and Summit will take place at Fitchburg State University. The event will feature remarks from Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll, Fitchburg Mayor Stephen DiNatale, Fitchburg State University President, Dr. Richard Lapidus, and Dr. Luis Aguirre-Torres, the former leader of efforts to decarbonize Ithaca, NY, and current Director of Financing Solutions for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

2023 Innovation Award Recipients:

Bristol Community College National Offshore Wind Institute – Bristol Community College’s National Offshore Wind Institute (NOWI), located in downtown New Bedford, is a state-of-the-art training facility equipped with cutting-edge technology to offer all required training and certifications for the offshore wind industry. NOWI is equipped with industry-leading simulators and virtual reality technology, to ensure that workers are prepared for any situation. The institute has also partnered with Maersk Training, a globally recognized training provider with over 40 years of experience and accreditation from relevant industry bodies.

City of Lowell – The Community First Partnership was created by the Sponsors of Mass Save® to increase participation in energy efficiency programs in environmental justice communities. Although the initial program design included funding for a part-time Energy Advocate, the City of Lowell strongly believed that to successfully engage the community, a full-time staff member would be needed. The City of Lowell hired this full-time Energy Advocate, Victor Vargas, in October 2022.

In addition to community events and community-wide mailings, the city created “Open Office Hours,” which allows residents and local small businesses with energy challenges to receive one-on-one assistance, including interpretation support for Spanish speakers. At open office hours, residents can receive utility bill check-ups to screen for other supportive services like the city’s Community Choice Aggregation program, utility discount rate program, and fuel assistance. In the first year, various outreach efforts through the Community First Partnership resulted in 806 referrals to Mass Save, 102 to Community Choice Aggregation, 65 to National Grid’s discount rate program, and 33 to Fuel Assistance. By offering comprehensive support and services to our community, Lowell is taking the first steps to provide for a more just and equitable energy transition.

Moran Square Redevelopment – Rees-Larkin Development’s Moran Square Apartments transform a former downtown fire station and the adjacent Harper Building, both from the late 19th century, into 16 apartments. These historic structures are knitted together with a new five-story building on an adjacent parcel for a combined 44 units of new mixed-income housing. While meeting historic preservation standards, the project will reach “passive house” efficiency levels, reducing energy consumption by 50 percent. With rooftop solar, the building will produce zero net emissions. The project revitalizes a key section of downtown Fitchburg, creates much needed housing, and demonstrates that projects achieving the highest levels of energy efficiency are possible in Gateway Cities.

NewVue Environmental Stewards Program – The Environmental Stewards Program at NewVue has trained over 30 community residents as Environmental Stewards, bringing together environmentalists who have been active since the 1960s with a new generation of leaders. The Stewards have planted hundreds of trees in Leominster and Fitchburg through the Greening the Gateway Cities program. They’ve also secured a state grant for the Nashua River Watershed, and created the North Central Climate Change Coalition, which has hosted public forums to bring the region together around local efforts to address climate change.

Western Massachusetts E-Contractor Academy – In partnership with the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission and the Western Mass Economic Development Council, the Emerald Cities Collaborative recently launched the Western Massachusetts E-Contractor Academy. The collaborative effort will provide minority and women-owned business enterprises (MWBE) with training and technical assistance to help them access business opportunities in energy efficiency and clean energy projects funded by utility, state and federal investments. The academy connects MWBEs to professional services firms that can provide support with business capacity development, certification, and public procurement aimed towards getting more MWBEs working on clean energy projects.

Worcester HEART Partnership –In January 2022, the Environmental and Climate Justice (E&CJ) Committee of the Worcester NAACP launched the Worcester H.E.A.R.T. Partnership to improve the health, safety, and energy efficiency of the city’s triple-deckers, while also creating employment opportunities for local residents in the building trades. In addition to the NAACP, H.E.A.R.T partner organizations include Main South Community Development Corporation (MSCDC), Sustainable Comfort, Resonant Energy, the Worcester Community Action Council, Mothers Out Front Worcester, Neighbor to Neighbor Worcester, and the Building Electrification Accelerator.

The Partnership’s first project was a feasibility study focused on six triple-deckers owned by MSCDC, examining the challenges and opportunities to repairing, retrofitting, and electrifying Worcester’s historic triple-deckers. Partners Inventoried energy conservation measures, analyzed the solar energy potential of the properties; connected with tenants, organized bilingual events, and examined the local workforce landscape, highlighting partnerships to build training and employment pipelines and on-ramps to prepare workers to retrofit old buildings and convert fossil-fueled heating systems to heat pump heating and cooling systems. In September 2023, they shared lessons learned at a community event that featured a display of 24 posters in Spanish and English and interactive installations prompting residents to tell their own housing stories. Posters were moved to City Hall; installations will be shared at community events co-organized with community partners.


About MassINC’s Gateway Cities Innovation Institute: The Gateway Cities Innovation Institute works to unlock the economic potential of small to midsize regional cities. Leveraging MassINC’s research, polling, and policy team, the Institute strengthens connections across communities and helps Gateway City leaders develop and advance a shared policy agenda.

About MassINC: Founded in 1996, MassINC’s mission is to make Massachusetts a place of civic vitality and inclusive economic opportunity by providing residents with the nonpartisan research, reporting, analysis, and civic engagement necessary to understand policy choices, inform decision making, and hold the government accountable.

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