TOWNSEND -- On July 24, Townsend became an official Green Community, a designation that comes with a $156,825 grant to reduce energy use in the town.
The program is run through the Massachusetts Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs. There are 103 Green Communities in the state.
The Townsend Energy Committee worked for a year and a half to earn the designation and its monetary award.
The town performed an energy audit and passed bylaws and set policies to purchase fuel-efficient vehicles, to improve building efficiency for new construction and to streamline the permitting processes for alternative energy installations in order to qualify for the program.
One of the major challenges faced by the town is reducing energy use by 20 percent over five years, said committee member Sandra Brown.
The committee is planning on focusing on vehicle fuel use through the adoption of a no-idling policy and the requirement to purchase fuel-efficient vehicles.
"Vehicle fuel is a very large proportion of our energy consumption," she said.
A no-idling policy needs to be examined for its overall savings, said committee member Sue Dejniak.
Plows and public-safety vehicles would likely be excluded during the winter months. These vehicle users need to stay warm and police vehicles need to be ready for a quick response, Brown said.
It will be easy for the town to meet or exceed fuel efficiency standards for new vehicles, she said.
The Green Community grant money could be used to cover the difference in cost between a less efficient vehicle and a qualifying vehicle, Chairman Chris Campion said.
Cruisers, fire vehicles, emergency service vehicles and plows are not part of the fuel-efficient vehicle purchasing policy, Brown said.
Vehicle fuel use is an easy target for reducing the town's energy consumption, she said. Increasing fuel-efficiency in buildings is more challenging.
"They've already got the low-hanging fruit," she said.
As a result of earlier audits, the heat and hot-water systems at the West Townsend Reading Room and the West Townsend Fire Station were replaced using funds from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program.
Much of the lighting used in municipal buildings has been updated.
The new senior center and library complex, opened in 2009, has an efficient climate-control system.
"These are good problems to have," Dejniak said.
The first grant application is due Sept. 21. The grant money will be awarded over time. The committee expects to request funds for additional audits at that time.
Part of the award money can be used to pay for further audits to identify the best ways of decreasing energy use, Campion said.
Before money is used for a project, an audit must be done to provide details on cost and energy saving.
"We obviously want to use this money conservatively," Brown said.