TOWNSEND -- After being awarded a Green Communities Grant by the state Department of Energy Resources, the Energy Committee is planning their next steps to move forward with energy-saving projects.

Committee member Chris Campion said he was thrilled that the grant had been awarded, but it didn't come as a major shock to the committee because generally the DOER will alert committees if something is wrong with their application. Still, he said, it is a relief that it came through after the hours spent on the application.

"It's been a lot of work for the committee, especially because we're all volunteers," he said. "It's really good to see all that effort is going to start to come to fruition."

The grant, in the amount of $156,000, will be used by the committee over the next five years to reduce town-wide energy consumption by 20 percent.

"What will happen is we will dispense it out in small chunks as we go through the process," said Campion.

Now, he said, the committee will be moving from the planning stage to execution.

The first major project the committee will be starting with is an energy audit of town hall and the public safety complex.

"Now that we have approval to move forward with the audit, we will send out our request for bids," said Campion.

Upon receiving bids that fit into the budget plan approved by the grant, the committee will bring their selected quote to the Board of Selectmen. Pending selectmen's approval, Campion said he hoped to schedule the energy audit early next year, preferably while it is still winter.

"If the buildings are leaking heat, we'll really be able to see it in the winter," he said.

The committee will be following auditing parameters set up by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. The committee will be looking to receive a level two audit.

Whereas a level one audit is a simple walk-through to look for obvious savings, said Campion, "A level two is much better and might include things like heat-loss analysis, HVAC balancing -- it might look at energy consumption and where it's being used."

The audit will define what Campion calls EEMs, or energy-efficiency measures, which will then be taken back to department heads for feedback on what makes sense for the town buildings.

Another project the Energy Committee is looking at is installing IdleRight in police cruisers. The device is designed to reduce idling and fuel consumption while allowing cruisers to be parked for long periods of time with their lights flashing, such as in traffic detail. There was some question over how much the department would benefit from these devices, since the cruisers don't spend a lot of time idling, according to Police Chief Erving Marshall. As a result, the device will be installed on a trial basis to measure the savings.

One frequently asked question that he hears, said Campion, is "Why do you have to spend so much?"

The answer, he said, is in the end result, not only in environmental terms, but also financially.

"For municipalities, where there are savings long-term can add up to many tens of thousands of dollars. It's worthwhile to find all the little places in town to save energy."

For the Water Department, for instance, which was denied a request to become an independent water district at Special Town Meeting, this might be a silver lining.

If they had become a district, said Campion, "Grants like we had gotten could not have been applied to them."