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The town of Manchester has been awarded a plaque in recognition of its status as a Maryland Smart Energy Community by the Maryland Energy Administration, according to town officials.

The town had been pursuing various energy saving projects over the past several years, qualifying for MEA grant money and now, formal recognition, according to Finance Director Kelly Baldwin.

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A plaque that reads "Manchester: A smart energy community since 2014" was awarded at the Sept. 18 meeting of the Maryland Municipal League.

The MEA Smart Energy Communities Program was launched last year as a way to assist municipalities in making changes to help meet Gov. Martin O'Malley's energy goals for the state, according to MEA spokeswoman Devan Willemsen.

"There are three policies [municipalities] can adopt: One is to reduce their energy consumption through electricity, 15 percent ... [Another is] to reach about 20 percent of their power generation by renewable sources, and [lastly] to reduce their transportation petroleum usage as well," she said. "They can choose two of the three [policies] or all three, and they mirror the governor's goals."

Manchester officials had already been pursuing a plan to reduce electricity consumption, according to Town Administrator Steve Miller, replacing all the lighting in town facilities with low wattage options in 2012. It made sense to apply to the MEA program and pursue the reduction of electricity consumption plan, and Miller said the town is already ahead of the goal to reduce their consumption by 15 percent in five years, using 2012 as their baseline.

"Lighting has been a good move," he said. "I think right now we're running 30 percent below [baseline], so we are meeting our goal, but we want to strive to do better."

Manchester submitted planned energy conserving projects to MEA for approval, and after completing the projects, was reimbursed through the Maryland Smart Energy Communities Grant, program, according to Baldwin, who said the town has received $51,370.26 in grant money in 2014.

MEA funds also helped the town pay for an energy study that has guided their project selection process, according to Miller.

"We can use that as a map for each year when we request the projects to do with MEA," he said. "That helps us get our biggest bang for our buck."

After replacing the lighting in town facilities, the town replaced an aging heating system in the waste water treatment facility, according to Miller. Currently, the town is looking to further reduce energy waste by installing smart thermostats in all facilities.

Looking forward, Miller said the town hopes to take on the challenge of sourcing 20 percent of their energy from renewable sources, possibly including wind and solar power at town facilities. For the time being however, the focus is on reducing energy use as much as possible, saving money for the town.

"We wanted to zero in on consumption first," Miller said. "Our renewable energy generation has to be completed by 2022. We looked at it and said, 'OK, we have some time there.' The possibilities we are looking at might include a solar hot water system at our new town hall location."

Reach staff writer Jon Kelvey at 410-857-3317 or jon.kelvey@carrollcountytimes.com.

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