Is Lexington’s Future RENEWABLE?


Is Lexington’s Future


By Mark Sandeen, Chair
Sustainable Lexington Committee

Lexington made remarkable progress towards achieving a renewable future in 2017. We brought our Hartwell Avenue solar facility online – and are now generating 45% of the Town’s municipal electricity demand from our rooftop and landfill projects. We launched a highly successful Community Choice program, which is now providing 100% renewable electricity for less money than our utility’s Basic Service offering to over 10,000 customers – saving Lexington residents about $1.6 million over the first 12 months of the program.

The Town approved two designs for 100% renewable energy schools that will be built to the highest standards for health, indoor air quality, energy efficiency and resilience. Hastings School and the Lexington Children’s Place are expected to generate more solar electricity onsite than they need to operate – from their rooftops and solar canopies in their parking lots.

These are extraordinarily hopeful signs for the Getting to Net Zero Emissions task force; whose 25-year goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from Lexington’s residential, commercial, and municipal buildings and to achieve a transition to renewable energy sources for all of Lexington’s buildings. Our guiding principles have been four simple words – Report, Reduce, Produce, and Purchase.

Report – Our first step is to understand what types of buildings we have in Lexington and assess how those types of buildings perform from an energy use and emissions perspective.

Reduce – There are really only two ways to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. We can use less energy by investing in energy efficiency or we can switch to using cleaner sources of energy.

Produce – The next step is maximizing the production of onsite renewable energy from our rooftops and parking lots.

Purchase – After reducing energy use and switching from burning fossil fuels onsite as much as possible, we will purchase renewable electricity to supply our energy demand.

Why is the task force focusing on our buildings? Lexington’s buildings generate 66% of our greenhouse gas emissions – 36% from the electricity used in our buildings and 30% from the use of oil and natural gas to heat our buildings.

We’ve hired Peregrine Energy Group to produce an energy and emissions baseline report for all of Lexington’s buildings. They have produced a fascinating report with lots of interesting results. Peregrine found that our residential buildings are responsible for 55% of our building emissions while commercial labs and offices are responsible for 34% of our emissions. The remaining 11% comes from our municipal buildings, retail spaces, non-profits, and health care facilities.

The chart above shows that most of our residential buildings were built in the ‘50s and ‘60s. During that time the average size of a new home was about 1,200 square feet. New homes today are averaging about 4,700 square feet or about 4 times the size of homes built between 1920 and 1980. Many Lexington residents are under the impression that we are tearing down existing homes at a furious pace – after all, it seems like you see a new teardown going on every time you drive around town. But the data shows that new construction is responsible for less than 1% of our building stock each year. What that means is that 25 years from now – we will mostly have the same buildings we have today.

These lessons also hold true for our commercial buildings. Most of our commercial buildings were built in the ‘50s thru the ‘80s. We are building very few new commercial buildings today. The simple takeaway is that we will have to figure out how to retrofit our existing buildings if we are going to be successful at reducing our emissions to zero.

Natural gas usage is up in Lexington. But that is offset by declines in heating oil usage as residential homeowners have been switching from heating oil to natural gas quite rapidly since 2008. Our electricity use has been declining about 1% a year for the past 7 years due primarily to the Mass Save program to encourage energy efficiency. [See chart below]


But perhaps the biggest story for our overall emissions has been the beneficial effect of closing our coal and oil power generators in New England. We started with a much cleaner electrical grid than the rest of the country and have now reduced our emissions an additional 30% over the past 20 years.

In Lexington we hope to accelerate that trend by leveraging our positive experience with our Community Choice program that was able to secure 100% renewable electricity for less than the cost of conventional electricity. Our Community Choice program is currently reducing Lexington’s emissions by 98 million pounds of CO2 per year. [See chart above] Now that we are able to provide 100% renewable energy at lower cost for our residents, we’d like to do the same thing for our commercial property owners.

A lot of people are amazed that this is possible. The simple fact is that renewable energy prices are dropping rapidly. Solar panel prices plunged by a shocking 26 percent in the last year — despite having already dropped 80 percent in the previous 10 years and 99 percent since the late 1970s. Wind’s story is almost as amazing. In October, we saw the lowest bids in the world for 1,000 MW of wind electricity at 4 cents per kWh – a 24 percent drop just from February. We are seeing similarly rapid declines in offshore wind prices.

The next series of charts provide a broad overview of our plan for Getting to Net Zero Emissions for all of our buildings. [Figure 1] The upper light blue line on this chart shows what we could expect for our buildings’ greenhouse gas emissions in a Business as Usual case. The light blue area shows the emissions reductions we can expect from the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) that requires an additional 1% of renewable electricity per year. The dark blue area represents the emission reductions we can achieve by transitioning all of our buildings to 100% renewable electricity. We would reduce our emissions by 48% when we achieve that objective. We have high confidence that we’ll be able to achieve this as we expect the cost of renewable electricity to continue dropping over the next 25 years.

The light and dark green parts of the next chart [Figure 2] show we can reduce our emissions 34% by switching from oil and natural gas to heat our buildings, if we transition to using heat pumps powered by 100% renewable electricity. The cost and performance of heat pumps has made dramatic gains in the past 4 or 5 years. Heat pumps provide a strong economic incentive to switch from oil on energy savings alone. We will encourage the transition to heat pumps as older oil fired boilers reach the end of their useful life.

With natural gas prices currently at all-time lows, heating with natural gas will cost less than using a heat pump solution. One way to provide a cost effective solution for natural gas customers would be to combine energy efficiency improvements such as air sealing and insulation to reduce the building’s overall energy demand with the transition to a heat pump. Building owners would see a net overall reduction in their energy costs by combining an investment in energy efficiency and heat pumps. [Figure 3]

Interestingly, there is also an opportunity to tap into the $9.3 billion Massachusetts has allocated to repair natural gas pipelines. The idea is that rather than spending the money to repair natural gas pipelines – you could use less money to pay for the new equipment needed to transition from natural gas to heat pumps, from natural gas ranges to induction cooktops. We’ll be trying a pilot project in Lexington to see if that idea pencils out.

Estabrook School

Finally, we have already figured out how to build our new school buildings to be 100% renewable buildings while lowering our total cost of ownership. Our most recently constructed LexHab affordable homes were only 1 or 2% away from generating 100% of their own energy.  We’ve even seen a net zero energy retrofit completed in the Historic District! Net Zero construction is a growing trend in new construction. Net Zero buildings have been delivering dramatic increases in home valuations. We believe that over the next 10 years we’ll be able to adopt a net zero emissions building code for all new buildings in Lexington that will deliver the final 8% in emissions reductions needed to transition Lexington to a 100% renewable energy future. [Figure 4]

Our largest building owners in Lexington, like King Street Properties and Shire are committed to reducing their emissions and are already setting and beating aggressive goals to reduce their emissions. We will be working with them to support their efforts with programs such as the Commercial PACE program, which allows commercial property owners to access new sources for energy efficiency and renewable energy financing.

SHIRE Pharmaceuticals

King Street Properties – 115 Hartwell Avenue


In the near term, we are recommending that the Board of Selectmen take a leadership role by adopting the Sustainable Building Design policy, formalizing the goals for health, indoor air quality, energy efficiency and onsite renewable energy production, which have shown such great results during the Hastings and Lexington Children’s Place school design.

We would also suggest that the Town start buying 100% renewable electricity for its own municipal electricity demand. The Town of Lexington signed a 3-year agreement with our current electricity provider, which ends in December of 2018. This year would be an excellent time to complete the Town’s move to a 100% renewable electricity future.

A lot of folks ask – what about reducing emissions from our vehicles? While our buildings are responsible for 66% of our greenhouse emissions, our vehicles are certainly next on the chopping block at 23% of our total emissions. The good news is that if we can transition our buildings to 100% renewable electricity – we can do the same for our cars.

Battery prices are declining rapidly and are expected to continue their rapid decline with another 75% price reduction expected within the next 15 years. At the same time, the power to weight ratio of the batteries has been improving rapidly. Those advances have allowed Elon Musk to introduce an electric truck with 500 miles of range and Tesla’s new Roadster with 620 miles of range!

Both trends have lead to soaring sales of electric vehicles worldwide and in Lexington. There were 1 million electric vehicles on the road at the end of 2015, but it took only 18 months for the next million electric vehicle sales. The next million cars will be on the road by Patriot’s Day this year. Lexington is also leading the electric vehicle revolution in Massachusetts with 6.7 times the number of electric vehicles per capita compared to the Massachusetts average. We doubled the number of electric cars in Lexington last year, and hope to do that again this year with our Lex Drive Electric group discount program.

And that revolution is only just getting started. Navigant expects 37 million electric vehicles will be on the road by 2025. Yes, that is more than 10x growth in the next 7 years. And 2025 is when Bloomberg [See chart above] expects electric car sales to really accelerate! Bloomberg New Energy Finance projects that the unsubsidized price of electric cars will fall to less than the price for internal combustion engine cars somewhere between 2025 and 2030.

Electric cars already cost far less to operate and maintain than gas vehicles. So when the upfront cost and the ongoing operating and maintenance cost are far less than a gas car – why would you buy a gas-powered vehicle? Especially when an electric car is just so darn fun to drive, has zero emissions when powered with renewable electricity and when you can get up to $7,500 in discounts from the Lex Drive Electric program?

So far we’ve been focusing on the benefit of reducing Lexington’s greenhouse gas emissions by transitioning our buildings and vehicles to 100% renewable energy, and with good reason. It is hard to overstate the importance of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions after watching the most extreme hurricanes and wildfires ever devastate Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and California, causing over $400 billion in damage.

But we should also consider that there are really important direct local health benefits from going 100% renewable. By transitioning both our buildings and cars to renewable energy we can eliminate much of the particulate matter air pollution that has dire immediate and local health effects. MIT determined that Massachusetts has the fifth highest premature mortality rate from the particulate matter air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels to heat our buildings. We have the 13th highest premature mortality rate from the air pollution caused by our vehicles. We could save over 3,100 lives each year in Massachusetts by eliminating the particulate matter emissions created by heating our buildings and driving our cars with fossil fuels.

Can Lexington transition to 100% renewable energy for our buildings and our vehicles? The answer is a resounding yes! The economics and the health benefits of renewable energy will not only lower our energy costs and improve our health, but will also provide a more livable climate for everyone. What are we waiting for?

The solar, wind, battery and electric car “miracles” have all gone mainstream. Building and running new renewable energy systems is now cheaper than just running exisiting coal and nuclear plants. China, India, France, the UK, and Norway have all announced they will phase out fossil fuel cars in the next decade or so. Even OPEC has quintupled their forecasts for electric cars. The clean energy revolution is now unstoppable. Are you onboard?

The Getting to Net Zero Emissions task force includes building owners, community leaders and subject matter experts representing residential, commercial and municipal interests:
Joe Pato, Lexington Board of Selectmen, former Chair
Jeanne Krieger, Former Chair, Lexington Board of Selectmen
Paul Lukez, Architect – Author, Suburban Transformations
Wendall Kalsow, Architect – Member, Lexington Historical Commission
Mike DiMinico, Sr. Director, King Street Properties
Melanie Waldron, VP, Boston Properties
Joseph Fulliero, Environmental Manager, Shire
Janet Terzano, Real Estate Agent, Barrett Sotheby’s
Alessandro Allessandrini – Chair, Lexington School Committee
Melisa Tintocalis – Lexington’s Economic Development Director
Lisa Fitzgibbons – Community Organizer, Mothers Out Front
Mark Sandeen – Chair, Sustainable Lexington Committee

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Marge Battin~Trail Blazer

Marge Battin

By Jeri Zeder  |  Racine, Wisconsin, 1943. Margery Milne was a high school student with a summer job working in a tank factory that was in the throes of a labor dispute—of sorts. The local chapter of the United Auto Workers didn’t want to admit into its ranks students who were there just for the summer. But the national UAW was entitled to a percentage of local dues, so this didn’t sit well with union higher-ups. Walter Reuther, the famed UAW president, told the local to admit the kids or he’d call a strike. During war time! The local caved, and Marge joined the union. She was then elected vice president of the plant safety committee. At age sixteen.And that ought to be the punch line—but there’s more. Turns out, Cecil Paton Milne, Marge’s father, headed the company that made the tanks. And the leader of the local at the time, Stephen F. Olsen, later became Marge’s sounding board when she was Selectman in Lexington and he was the mayor of Racine.

Marge Milne Battin was born March 25, 1927, in Toronto, Canada, the oldest of three children of Milne, a businessman, and Mildred Conboy Milne (née Smith), a high school Latin teacher and homemaker. The family moved to Paris, returned to Toronto when Marge was five, and then relocated to Racine, Wisconsin, when Marge was in junior high school. In 1944, she came to New England to study at Wellesley College. There, inspired by her experiences with the UAW, Marge majored in Economics with a focus on labor. “I was going to be a labor organizer,” Marge says now. But she didn’t count on meeting Richard H. Battin.

“He’d seen my picture in the Wellesley portrait directory, which was ostensibly for the girls to get to know each other, but it always ended up at Harvard and MIT,” Marge says. “And he saw my picture and said, ‘That’s the girl I’m going to marry.’” Marge rebuffed his attempts to meet her. So one Sunday afternoon, Dick made his way over to Wellesley from

MIT and knocked on the door of her dorm. The girl who answered went off to find Marge. “She said, ‘He seems sort of nice, why don’t you come down and talk to him,’” Marge recalls. “So I came, and the rest is history.”

A young Margery Milne (front row center) at Webb Hall, Wellesley College, where she
majored in Economics. Photo courtesy of the Battin family.

A young Margery Milne.
Photo courtesy of the Battin family.

Like so many other young college men during World War II, Dick was in the V-12 Navy College Training Program. He graduated in 1945, and the couple married in 1947. Marge graduated with a B.A. in Economics the following year. Dick pursued a Ph.D. in Applied Mathematics at MIT. Marge set aside her dream of organizing migrant workers. “There was no place to labor-organize, nor was there a migrant worker in sight,” she explains. She briefly considered Harvard Business School. “They would hire me to write the cases. They would hire me to grade the papers. But they were not admitting women to Harvard Business School,” she says. She went to work for an investment firm, and when she became a mother, stayed home with their three children Tom, Pam and Jeff.

Marge and Dick moved to 15 Paul Revere Road in Lexington in 1953, where they remained for nearly 60 years. Early on, Marge dove head first into community affairs: she served as Den mother, Brownie leader, Sunday School teacher, METCO host parent, PTA board member, and Vice President of the Lexington League of Women Voters. She was on the board of directors of RePlace, a youth counseling service; the Lexington Visiting Nurse Association; and the Lexington Interfaith Corporation, a sponsor of low and moderate income housing. She helped organize Citizens for Lexington Public Schools and Citizens for Lexington Youth.

Dick, meanwhile, went to work for the MIT Instrumentation Lab, where he participated in planning a Mars probe. Guidance control became his specialty. For the Apollo 11 mission, which put the first man on the moon, Dick organized and led the staff who created the software that would navigate the astronauts through space. Marge says, “He really was in charge of getting them there and landing precisely within inches of where he had aimed them. Which is interesting, because the kids laugh hysterically: Dick and I have almost no sense of direction at all! I remember we were going to the movies with the kids and Dick got lost. The kids said, ‘Thank God the astronauts can’t see you now!’” After helping to achieve President Kennedy’s goal of “landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth,” Dick, with Marge, traveled to the Soviet Union as guests of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

When young Dick Battin saw a picture of Margery Milne in the Wellesley “portrait directory” he said, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry.” Above, Marge and Dick on their wedding day. Photo courtesy of the Battin family.

It was Dick who got involved with local politics first. The neighborhood’s septic tanks were backing up; it was time to petition the town to hook the homes into the municipal sewer system. A neighbor who was a Town Meeting Member advised Dick to run for Town Meeting. “Dick grew up in Baltimore; I grew up in the Middle West, and municipal government was something you never paid any attention to, unless it was corrupt or something,” Marge says. “We didn’t even know what Town Meeting was about.” Dick also served as vice-chair of the Appropriation Committee. “When he came home, he’d be talking about it, and I started getting kind of excited. It was a lot better than talking about diapers and small children,” Marge says. Seeing her enthusiasm, Dick encouraged her to run. “I had never really thought about it; there were just a few women [in Town Meeting],” she says. But as an active member of Lexington’s League of Women Voters, Marge had become knowledgeable about town affairs. So run she did, and started serving in 1960. “I’m lucky. I found what I liked to do and was good at, and I just loved it,” she says. All told, Marge served Town Meeting for 49 years, just four years shy of Dick’s record-setting 53 years of continuous service to Town Meeting.

Lexington’s present form of government is the direct outgrowth of Marge’s hard work and leadership. She co-chaired the initial committee of the Town Meeting Member Association that looked at the structure of Lexington’s local government, and when Town Meeting decided to address the issue more formally, she chaired that committee, too. The resulting plan passed Town Meeting and was ratified by the voters. “We were the only town that when we took it to the voters, it went through the first time,” she says. The State Legislature approved the Lexington Selectmen/Town Manager Act in 1969.

At issue in the development of the Act was how to modernize the structure of the government of a town that was expanding services to accommodate its growing population and needed to be more nimble and sophisticated in addressing the resulting operational complexity. It was time to leave behind the old government structure that had citizens engaged in administrative, rather than policy, issues; that lacked well-defined areas of responsibility and therefore permitted too many items to fall through the cracks; and was too often inefficient and ineffective. Under the Lexington Selectmen/Town Manager Act of 1969, the Board of Selectmen became a policy-making body, with administrative duties centralized under the direction of a full-time, professional Town Manager. Over forty years later, Lexington still operates, and quite successfully, under this form of government.

Marge then ran for Selectman, a position she wanted in part to ensure that Lexington’s new government structure would operate as intended, and served from 1974-1986, including two stints as Board chair. She became the first women elected president of the Massachusetts Selectmen’s Association (MSA) and was the first woman president of the Middlesex County Selectmen’s Association. When she later became president of the Massachusetts Moderators Association (MMA), Marge attained the distinction of being the only person in Massachusetts history to be president of both the MMA and the MSA.And speaking of firsts: In 1987, Marge began her 22-year tenure as the first woman elected Town Moderator of Lexington. Anyone who ever saw her preside over Town Meeting will remember her professionalism, her exceptional command of rules and procedure, and her deft ability to keep 200 rugged individualists on time and on task. Marge credits the League of Women Voters and the Town Meeting Members Association with shaping how she operated as Moderator. One notable highlight: the time she had to convene a Town Meeting that no one could attend due to inclement weather. The Department of Public Works sent a heavy-duty vehicle to her house and whisked her off to Cary Hall so she, the Town Clerk, and then-Town counsel Norman Cohen could convene and adjourn the meeting and properly preserve it for another day.

Marge (center) with Bebe and Gary Fallick and Norman and Linda Cohen at one of the many Lexington events she attended and supported.

To list the number of organizations, advisory committees, and human services groups that Marge has served would fill more pages than this magazine can handle. She loves that local government is a place for citizens of all backgrounds to mix it up for the greater good, and she views those she works with, regardless of age or walks of life, as friends and colleagues. She sees the conduct of local officials and representatives—the way they can vehemently disagree with each other year after year and yet continue to respect each other—as a model that ought to be emulated on the national level. She is a fierce believer in the importance of municipal government, and maintains that it does not get the respect it deserves. “Neither the national nor the state level realize that we’re the ones that operate all their programs. They get operated where we are and we see what they’ve done, what works, what doesn’t work, and to ignore us, they do so at their peril, but they do. And they have no idea when they make cuts to local aid what they do to us. We can give them important feedback on what works and what doesn’t work, but they never looked at us as partners,” she says. She cites former Governor Michael Dukakis, State Representative Jay Kaufman, and State Senator Susan Fargo as rare and refreshing exceptions.


Marge with her husband Dick

At age 85, in a time of widespread cynicism toward government, Marge remains passionately idealistic about public service. “It is at the local level,” Marge reminds us, “where needs occur and services are delivered. You can immediately see the results of what government does or doesn’t do. You can see what works and what doesn’t work. You can then personally engage colleagues in local problem-solving.” Hers is an idealism based in actual experience, in the demonstrable difference she and her compatriots have made in this community.







Keeping the Library’s Lights On

Marge Battin is a staunch supporter of Lexington’s Cary Memorial Library, a cause that she traces back to events from her childhood. When her family returned from Paris and resumed living in Toronto, Marge was just five years old and a fluent French speaker. The other children teased her relentlessly for it. “I sort of withdrew and the school had a library,” she says. “That was my refuge and I escaped to another time and place.” Her love for libraries was reinforced by her family’s weekly ritual library visits. Eventually, Marge grew into a fast and voracious reader capable of devouring five books in a single day.

As Selectman, Marge was a member of the Library Board of Trustees. From 1998 to 2007, she served as a founding member of the Cary Memorial Library Foundation. As part of the massive fundraising effort for the Library’s recent renovation, Marge and a colleague were sent off to visit some prospective donors with instructions to ask for a donation amounting to a six-figure sum. “My voice was quavering, my hands were shaking,” Marge recalls. “I thought they were going to throw us out on our ear. But they said, ‘That’s what we were thinking about.’ And we got it! I went home and called my daughter and said, ‘I asked someone for [a six figure donation], and they gave it to us!’”

Marge remains committed to the Library as a volunteer to the Foundation, as an annual donor, and, because she has provided for the Library in her estate plans, as a member of the Maria Hastings Cary Legacy Society. With her town government hat on, Marge says, “The last light that should go off, if it has to go off, is the Library. I just think it’s absolutely crucial. And I think that’s much the feeling of just about everyone in Lexington.”



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