Self Reliance is a participant in the Cape & Islands Renewable Energy Collaborative (CIREC). CIREC brings together diverse individuals and organizations with common interest in achieving a sustainable energy future, both locally and globally. Founded in 2000 as a not-for-profit, participatory collaborative, active CIREC participants include representatives from membership organizations, advocacy groups, research centers, businesses, educational institutions, and government agencies. In September 2005, CIREC became a local chapter of the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA), thus opening “membership” in the organization to a broader constituency of active citizens and businesses in the region.
CIREC participants work together to expand the role of renewable resources in meeting energy needs and improving economic, environmental, and social conditions in local communities. Individually and as a collective, CIREC participants and members are:
- Building awareness of the benefits of renewable energy and energy efficiency
- Increasing deployment of solar photovoltaic, wind energy, and other clean energy technologies
- Educating and training the clean energy workforce
- Transforming markets on behalf of sustainable design and green building practices
- Providing an informed basis for weighing energy supply, delivery, and use options
- Fostering inclusive, expansive, transparent, and coordinated community planning processes
- Setting examples, educating and inspiring others
Over the course of the last three years, CIREC has conducted a “Beyond Cape Wind” Process to engage regional stakeholders in coordinated community planning activities. Surveys and facilitated meetings have revealed strong consensus regarding the adverse impacts of the Energy Present, the benefits of increased efficiency and growing reliance on renewables, and the need for concerted action toward a better Energy Future.
On December 1, 2006, CIREC organized a visioning session to develop energy-related objectives, milestones, and priority actions for the Cape & Islands region. The session, attended by 18 individuals representing a broad range of regional constituencies, had two important outcomes. First, it established that regional energy stakeholders with differing perspectives can quickly come to agreement on major policy issues. Working from a blank slate, attendees developed a set of high-level recommendations for then-incoming Gov. Deval Patrick, delivered them to the Patrick-Murray Transition Team in December 2006, and subsequently communicated them to other elected officials. Each of these recommendations has already been addressed or is under active consideration at the state level.
Second, the visioning session established ambitious 2020 goals relating to energy independence and climate change, both of which depend on substantial increases in energy efficiency and in reliance on renewable resources:
- Generate sufficient renewable energy in the Cape & Islands region to meet 100% of net electricity needs by 2020
- Reduce direct use of fossil fuel for heating and transport applications in the Cape & Islands region by 50% in 2020, relative to 2006 consumption
Throughout 2007, CIREC participants have worked together to develop a Regional Energy Action Plan (REAP) that encourages immediate action by all stakeholders while organizing collaborative pursuit of the long-term goals within the context of shared objectives relating to affordability, security, economic growth, environmental quality, social well-being, climate change, and sustainable development. The REAP encompasses two different types of plans: The Collaborative Plan specifies actions to be taken by CIREC as they draw upon institutional capabilities and resources to provide planning, outreach, education, training, research, analysis, communications, and other services. The Stakeholder Plans specify actions to be taken by residents and visitors, students and schools, businesses and organizations, local communities, and regional, state, and federal agencies and officials. The CIGoGreen campaign is designed to incite action by all stakeholders by communicating an engaging, empowering, and positive message: “See, I Go Green!”
Concurrently, the Vineyard Energy Project has led the charge for a comprehensive energy plan for the island modeled after that of Samso Island in Denmark, which considers itself a “Renewable Energy Island.” This plan is being developed as part of an overall regional process, called "The Island Plan," coordinated by the Martha's Vineyard Commission. The goals outlined seek to greatly increase energy efficiency and renewables development so that by 2050:
- The Vineyard's total energy use is half that of what was used in 2005 as a result of greater efficiencies in electricity use, heating and cooling and in transportation; and The Vineyard meets 75% of its remaining energy needs from solar, wind, geothermal, and other renewable resources and is almost carbon neutral.