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Buildings & Energy

From electrifying and retrofitting our homes and businesses to increasing the renewable energy in our grid, we can decrease Watertown’s contributions to climate change while also promoting healthy, livable, and affordable neighborhoods.

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Buildings, Energy and Our Climate

Emissions from Buildings

We spend most of our daily lives—sleeping, working, eating—in buildings. Our homes, offices, grocery stores, places of worship, etc. require a significant amount of energy to ventilate the air, manage temperatures, power our devices, and provide many of the other basic comforts we are accustomed to. These activities come at a cost. The fossil fuels used in buildings and those used to generate the electricity we consume emit a significant amount of GHGs into the atmosphere. As of 2019, buildings represent 56% of our community’s total GHG emissions.

Buildings however, also present the biggest opportunity for us to reduce our emissions, improve the daily lives of all of our community members, and design smart and efficient neighborhood systems that are resilient to climate change. From our Greenhouse Gas Inventory, we know that we have an opportunity to make big reductions in building emissions by electrifying our homes and businesses and making them more efficient, while we work to green the grid.

Energy in the Community

Generation Sources

The carbon intensity of the electricity each of us consumes is determined by the mix of generation resources that feed energy on to the electric grid. The greater the percentage of clean energy sources, the less carbon is emitted to serve our needs. 

In New England, while there are growing numbers of large scale renewable generators, fossil fuels such as natural gas remain a substantial component of all electricity in the region. As we take action to clean the grid, our electrified systems -including buildings- will be well positioned to take advantage of the green, local electricity.

Energy in The Community

Solar Across Watertown

Watertown is working to drive growth in solar by both procuring more for City operations as well as the entire community, we're also requiring it on large commercial projects going forward. The residents and businesses of Watertown are already stepping up as well.  As of mid-2020, we have 307 solar installations with just over 5 MW of solar capacity. Combined these systems produce over 6.4 million kWh per year, the equivalent amount of electricity used by 774 homes!

While we may be small in area, we're making up for it by maximizing our solar potential. In terms of capacity per square mile, we're just behind Cambridge but have 20% more coverage than Arlington. 

Energy in the Community

Greening the Grid

Watertown Electricity Choice (WEC) is a State-vetted, City-sponsored electricity volume purchase program allows Watertown residents and businesses a much cleaner energy supply and a typical, but not guaranteed, cost savings. WEC was launched in September 2019 with over 82% participation and 3% of participants have opted up to 100% renewable energy. Our goals are to continue to advocate for residents to opt in if not currently participating or, if enrolled, opt-up to 100% green. 

Annually WEC reduces Watertown’s carbon footprint by the equivalent of 40 million miles driven by the average passenger car!

For more information, if you are not a participant and wish to be, or if you wish to help the environment even more by opting-up to 100% Green, contact Watertown Electricity Choice at or call customer support at 1-844-278-9864.


Benefits of Geo-Micro Grids

Scaling up electrifications for larger commercial and institutional structures could benefit from the use of geo-micro grids, a decentralized solution that uses thermal energy transferred through heat pumps and a shared water loop. Larger, more energy intensive buildings could benefit from this technology as it could serve multiple buildings while providing other resilience benefits, such as enhanced power reliability.


Energy in the Community

Building Sustainably

One way to reduce community scale energy use is to make sure we have buildings constructed to high performance standards. One of those standards is the Leadership and Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program.

Watertown has an ordinance to require all new development projects to be LEED silver certifiable within the commercial, mixed-use and industrial zones.

Electrification and Efficiency

Electrifying our Existing Buildings

To meet our GHG reduction targets, we must eliminate fossil fuel use in both new and existing buildings. With new construction, we have an opportunity, not only to reduce our community’s emissions, but also to build highly efficient, dynamic, and healthier buildings. Electric systems are more efficient, and the more energy efficient a building is, the less power (and money) it will need to operate over time. Plus, eliminating fossil fuel powered appliances improves air quality and can enhance comfort.

The older buildings and housing stock that give our neighborhoods character also tend to be less energy efficient and heat and cooled with fossil fuel systems. Retrofitting our existing buildings with energy efficient and electric systems and appliances is an important strategy for sustainable and livable buildings in Watertown. 

Electrification and Efficiency

Retrofits Support Equity

Households in Watertown below 30% of area median income (AMI) spend on average 16% of income on energy, compared to 2% for those earning higher than AMI. This means that retrofits are an important way to help low-income residents save money. Technical and financial assistance can work to address these disparities as we transition our building systems to be highly energy efficient and run on renewable sources. 

Electrification and Efficiency

Homes of the Future

In the last 8 years, 8 projects representing 1,243 units have been completed, and another 487 are under construction.  These new units are being built to the high building efficiency standards of the entire town, but there remains a significant number of older homes that will need to be upgraded in order to meet our goals for energy as well as providing good housing options that all Watertown residents can afford.

To support landlords and renters in establishing sustainable rental housing, Resilient Watertown created a Resource Center that is an online hub for tools, guides, and funding opportunities to take action. Renters and landlords can utilize the Resource Center to make sustainable building upgrades more affordable, learn tips to save energy and money, and other climate-related topics like EVs, sustainable landscaping, conserving water, and more. Many of the resources are valuable for homeowners as well!

Homes of the future start with the homes of today, so taking action in rental housing is essential to meeting community climate goals!

Visit the Resource Center 


Leading by Example

Bold Energy Policies

Watertown was the first community in New England to pass a Solar Requirement Ordinance.  This requires solar installations on certain commercial buildings under new construction or with major additions / renovations.

Leading by Example

100% RE

The Watertown Town Council committed to aspirational goals of using 100% renewable energy for municipal electricity by 2035, and using 100% renewable energy for municipal heating and municipal transportation by 2050. The Town Council also actively encourages non-municipal residential, commercial, and transportation sectors in Watertown commit to a transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050.


Read the full Resolution HERE


Watertown's Police Station has a photovoltaic array and a state of the art geothermal heating and cooling system.

Leading by Example

Watertown's Efficient Buildings

Watertown currently has three municipal solar installations at our High School, DPW and Police Station, they provide almost 4.5% of our Municipal electricity usage.

Solar deployment in residential, commercial and municipal buildings in town total 285 installations with over 4 MW DC installed capacity.  Residential - 267 installations, 1,493.14 KW, Commercial – 18 installations 2,591.42 KW.

Leading by Example

Schools and Sustainability

Watertown’s Building for the Future committee has been working on renovations or replacements of four new / renovated schools in the near future. (Three Elementary Schools and the High School)

Two Elementary schools will be completely new and are targeted to be Net-Zero through a combination of better than code energy efficiency and aggressive rooftop and canopy solar deployment.  

Learn More 


Watertown Environment and Energy Efficiency Committee

Watertown has an active energy committee. This committee is appointed by the Town Council to assist with Environment and Energy related issues.  The Committee is responsible to:

  • Review and make recommendations about policies, procedures, activities, and facilities of departments, boards, or agencies of the Town as they relate to energy conservation and emissions reduction
  • Research energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in Watertown
  • Advise and assist municipal officials and employees in ensuring compliance with relevant national, regional, and state laws, regulations, and programs that aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Provide information, referrals, guidance, and technical assistance to individuals, public agencies, businesses, and organizations in matters relating to energy conservation and emissions reduction
  • Coordinate activities of other local groups organized for similar purposes

What You Can Do

Ways to Save

From tips and utility sponsored rebates and incentives for energy saving measures, the Mass Save program covers everything from highly efficient appliances to deep energy retrofits to getting rid of an old refrigerator. Or you can opt up in Watertown Electricity Choice to ensure the energy you do use is a clean as possible!