Analyzing and Operationalizing the Nantucket Energy Plan

Sponsor: Nantucket Energy Study Committee
Sponsor Liaison: Whitey Willauer & Peter Morrison
Student Team: Christopher Bannon, Timothy Ellsworth, Nicholas Musselman
Abstract: While the Nantucket Energy Plan was designed to promote conservation and efficient energy usage, the strategies described in the plan are currently too generic to fit the Island’s specific energy demands. Our goal for this project was to perform a thorough analysis of the Nantucket Energy Plan and suggest an appropriate course of action for the town. We conducted extensive research on the cost, energy savings, and acceptability for a select group of energy options. Using the information we collected, we identified the most feasible options and made recommendations for how the town should proceed with implementation.
Link: NEP_Final_Report2

Executive Summary

Nantucket’s high energy costs and closely bound community mean Nantucket is uniquely positioned to implement a climate action plan. In 2010, using protocols developed by an organization known as ICLEI, Nantucket drafted its climate action plan, now known as the Nantucket Energy Plan (NEP). However, the NEP has recently run into headwinds and has not yet received the full approval of the Board of Selectmen. Some members of the Board, as well as other concerned citizens, felt that while the ICLEI process provided local governments with an overall model for lowering energy consumption, its guidelines and embedded assumptions and algorithms were too generic to meet Nantucket’s specific needs. Many of these individuals believed a more ‘transparent’ method, catered to fit Nantucket’s unique situation, was needed for evaluating and setting priorities among the various energy reduction strategies described in the NEP (W. Willauer, personal communication, 2011).

To fulfill these needs, our project assisted the Nantucket Energy Study Committee (NESC) in developing a process for setting energy priorities that could be used to implement many of the energy strategies that are outlined in the NEP. Our team clarified the methods used by Sustainable Nantucket to select and evaluate energy options included Nantucket’s Climate Action Plan, determined the nature of the concerns regarding the NEP and its priority setting methods by interviewing key stakeholders and opinion leaders in the community, identified and developed alternative ways to determine energy policy priorities based on the unique characteristics of Nantucket’s situation, gathered information on the selected energy reduction strategies listed in the NEP, and recommended how the NESC should determine energy priorities in the future.

Method of Analysis

To try to address the concerns of the NESC and the Board of Selectmen, we needed to establish a transparent set of criteria to analyze individual energy saving measures and show how each solution would fit Nantucket specifically. In our analysis, we calculated the overall cost of several selected energy reduction strategies to help the town evaluate the economic feasibility of each option. We also evaluated the amount of energy that would be saved by implementing each option, which enabled us to determine the impact that the strategy would have on Nantucket’s energy use. Additionally, via interviews with key informants, we collected anecdotal information on the social and political acceptability of the energy strategy in order to gauge its likely effectiveness on the Island. We used this method of analysis to evaluate several of the options listed in the Transportation and Buildings sections of the NEP. Our team did not address the alternative energy options in the NEP due to time and resource constraints, and because many of these solutions are currently being extensively explored by others on the Island. The results of our research and analysis of the energy options that are described in these sections of the NEP are summarized in the table below.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Based on our selective analysis of proposed energy conservation solutions described in the NEP, we have identified the strategies that would be most beneficial to Nantucket. Additionally, we can recommend a method that the NESC can use to evaluate energy reduction options in the future.


From our research, we were able to make many conclusions regarding the NEP and the effect it might have on Nantucket’s energy use. An investigation of Nantucket’s unique energy situation revealed that the consumption and cost of energy on Nantucket is a significant concern that is likely to become more critical in future years as the summer population increases and energy costs climb.

Additionally, we found that the Climate Action Plan provided a good basis for future reference with the identification of a broad array of theoretical strategies to reduce energy consumption on the island. The Plan ran into substantial headwinds, however, for two major reasons: (1) some people objected to framing the issue in terms of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions; and (2) the assessments were based on generic models and data that fail to account for the particularities of the Nantucket situation. While the Nantucket Energy Plan addressed the first issue by shifting the emphasis away from climate, it still failed to provide a sufficiently detailed analysis of the costs and benefits of the different strategies to allow for the identification of priorities for implementation.

Accordingly, this report includes a more detailed analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of selected energy strategies using data and assumptions that are more closely tuned to Nantucket sensibilities. Recognizing that many Nantucket officials and residents are more concerned about cost than they are about climate change, our research has tried to examine in more detail some of the likely costs and savings associated with the different energy saving options. Any effort to implement energy policies, however, must also be aware of the likely social and political obstacles. Consequently, our project has also tried to assess the political and social acceptability of the different options.

The table below presents a summary of the results of our analysis. Each of the selected energy saving options taken from the Nantucket Energy Plan is rated according to cost, energy savings, and political and social acceptability. The categories have been color coded to highlight the differences among and between options.

However, even with these ratings, selecting priorities for implementation is not necessarily a straightforward process of selecting those options that have low costs, high energy savings potential, and high social and political acceptability, since these categories are not fungible or easily compared, and other factors may need to be considered. For example, putting more bicycle racks downtown may not save much energy, but it is socially and politically acceptable, relatively cheap to pursue, and may result in other social benefits, such as less traffic congestion downtown, less clutter from disorganized parking of bicycles, and better health from exercise.


The quantitative and anecdotal information we collected through our research and personal encounters enabled us to determine which energy reductions strategies, of those listed in the NEP, would be most successful on Nantucket. Our recommendations are divided into three parts: (1) Energy saving options the town should pursue; (2) Options the town should not pursue at this time; and (3) Future Assessment and Implementation efforts.

Cost, Energy, and Acceptability Ratings...Click for full size

Energy Saving Options the Town Should Pursue

One program that we strongly recommend the town promote to reduce residential energy use is the Mass Save Home Energy Assessment Program. Through Mass Save, residents can receive free CFLs and programmable thermostats, as well as discounts on smart power strips, refrigerators, and weatherization improvements. Since the Mass Save program is a free service that can save homeowners money on their energy bills, many residents would likely be in favor of having a Home Energy Assessment performed on their house. The town should therefore raise awareness about the Mass Save program to encourage residents to register for a Home Energy Assessment². Additionally, this program would reduce residential electricity consumption by making it easier for homeowners to obtain smart power strips and energy efficient light bulbs. This would delay the need for National Grid to install a third submarine cable from the Mainland to Nantucket.

According to our research, weatherization is a valuable energy saving strategy, and therefore we recommend that the town educate citizens on how it could significantly reduce their energy bills. Residential housing is one of the largest users of energy on the Island. More specifically, heating and cooling is the largest source of energy usage in residential houses, so it is a high priority target for energy reduction. Nantucket is home to many historic and aged houses, many of which are poorly insulated. Our research showed that proper weatherization of a poorly insulated house can reduce heating and cooling energy use by over 20%. We suggest that the town raise awareness by holding a weatherization lecture, where citizens can come to learn how weatherization could help them save money and talk to experts about what they can specifically do to weatherize their house. The town can raise awareness of programs, like Massachusetts’ Weatherization Assistance Program, which can provide residents with financial assistance for these renovations. This is an inexpensive solution for the Town that could reduce the island’s energy usage noticeably.

We also recommend that the town install additional public bike racks in the downtown area and other popular locations. The cost and installation per bike rack is relatively low, and although the energy reduction is difficult to measure, this would be a helpful step towards making Nantucket more bike‐friendly. The main goal of making Nantucket more bike‐friendly is to reduce the public’s usage of cars, which therefore reduces total vehicle emissions and fuel consumption, especially by reducing automobile congestion in downtown. Public opinion is high, and the HDC would have little objection to the racks as long as they fit in with Nantucket’s style, and are preferably made of wood. From our research, installing more bike racks would be a quick and valuable use of the town’s resources.

Another conservation technique we recommend the town should explore further, due to its ease of implementation, is installing tire inflation pumps at beach access points. Installing air pumps at these locations would encourage drivers to re‐inflate their tires immediately after exiting the beach, therefore reducing the amount of excess fuel consumed by vehicles traveling on under‐inflated tires. Although tire inflation pumps will not have a large impact on reducing the Island’s overall energy consumption, this is a strategy that would be welcomed by the public, while costing the town little to no money to implement. As a result, it would set the stage for the implementation of future energy solutions that have a greater impact on energy consumption.

The last two recommendations that we made were not entirely based on the ratings that we gave them. We looked more at their potential if further research was to be carried out. We decided to recommend them in this way due to their abstract nature and the fact that they are larger projects than most of the others outlined in our report. They may have a lot of different factors for or against their implementation, which we may not be able to foresee at the present time.

We recommend the use of biodiesel and SVO on the Island in municipal fleets and/or personal vehicles. Utilizing the waste oil from local restaurants will eliminate the need to dispose of the oil off‐island, substantially reduce emissions, eliminate some of the shipping costs associated with bringing diesel fuel to the island, and potentially create a small number of new jobs on the Island. In addition to these ancillary benefits, using biodiesel or SVO will directly reduce energy use and costs. It is worth the town’s time to research this option further to determine whether biodiesel or SVO is viable at the municipal or private level.

Along the same lines, using waste to create energy, EfW is an energy option that we recommend to eliminate the composting of waste and to generate a large amount of energy on the Island. An EfW processing plant would supply all of the electrical needs of the landfill, allow waste mined from the landfill to be disposed of, and supply more electricity than any renewable energy source currently on or planned for the island. Although there are many unknowns at this point, EfW could have substantial benefits for the Island and should be researched further. Educating the public about the benefits of an EfW plant and clarifying some of the misconceptions surrounding it would be worth the town’s time.

Energy Saving Options the Town Should Not Pursue

From our research, we determined that the proposed extension of the Park and Ride system is not economically feasible. The costs are high, the predicted utilization rates are low, and the energy savings are modest.

Green Fleet Policy was not considered for the six recommended options because the cost savings (medium) and energy savings (low), make it a low priority for quick implementation, and social and political support would likely be limited.

While many members of the community are strong proponents of installing an In‐Town Bike Path, we do not recommend this initiative as an energy saving strategy for the Island. While a bike path in Nantucket’s downtown area is socially appealing and would encourage some individuals to ride a bicycle into town instead of driving their car, the amount of energy that would be saved is not large enough energy to account for its high installation costs.

We chose not to recommend the rotary due to its high implementation cost and low political acceptability. In theory, it would save a lot of time and fuel if it was constructed, but with the lack of political support that it has now, it would not be easy to pursue.

Low flush toilets were not considered in our top recommended options because it is already required under Massachusetts building codes, and the ultimate energy savings would not be very high. Given the existing building codes, it is expected that the proportion of low flush toilets will increase steadily over time as new buildings are constructed and older homes renovated. A more aggressive policy requiring replacement of old toilets would not be socially or politically acceptable, and would yield limited energy savings.

LED street lighting was not a highly recommended option at this time since there is no rate change and therefore no financial benefit for the town to switch over. However, this can become an appealing energy and money saving strategy if future negotiations regarding rate changes occur.

Future Assessment and Implementation

Due to limited time and resources, it was not possible for us to fully research all the energy saving options listed in the NEP. Instead, we recommend that when the town explores the remaining options, they use a similar method of analysis. It is imperative that any assessment use data on costs, energy savings, and social and political acceptability that are tailored to the Nantucket situation. A tailored assessment will allow the town to have a better understanding of its options and the various tradeoffs. From our research, we found that there are differences in opinion based on whether cost or emissions should be the main focus in the energy plan. Our method does not provide a specific priority ranking of the solutions based on one variable, but rather it attempts to make more transparent the various assumptions, costs, benefits, and tradeoffs that are being made. Informed debate among citizens and officials will be necessary to determine priorities before moving to implementation.

1 Bold text indicates our recommended energy reduction strategies, while an * signifies recommended strategies that
are included in the recommendation of the Mass Save program

² Lauren Sinatra, Nantucket’s Energy Project and Outreach Coordinator, is actively working with National Grid to enhance awareness of this program and to improve the scheduling of audits with Island residents