City of Cambridge’s Sustainability Fellow
The mission of the Community Development Department (CDD) is to enhance the character and diversity of the city’s neighborhoods and support sustainable economic growth that expands opportunities for residents, enables a high quality of life within the community, and contributes to a healthy environment. The Environmental and Transportation Planning Division of CDD is responsible for addressing climate change by developing policies and programs to reduce energy use, protect natural resources, and reduce pollution. We partner with other departments around municipal initiatives and work with the city’s businesses, institutions, and residents to further their efforts to reduce their climate impacts.
The City of Cambridge has a goal to reduce its building emissions by 80% by 2050. To accomplish this, the City has developed and continues to create initiatives and policies aimed at increasing energy efficiency in buildings, encouraging renewable energy production and consumption in the City, and educating young people about sustainability and environmental issues. The City focuses on these areas because with 108,000 people in 6 square miles, 80% of the City’s greenhouse gas emissions come from its buildings sector. The City has ambitious goals, but the path to achieving them is daunting. The amount of solar in the city will need to increase 20 fold by 2050 and 50% of the reductions in emissions are planned to come from increasing energy efficiency in existing building stock. Better data and outreach and new programs and tools are crucial to meeting these goals. There are a variety of ways fellows could assist in this effort while simultaneously exploring the inner workings of one of the most forward thinking municipalities in the country on climate change and sustainability planning.
Using data to inform City Planning practices and help residents:
- Property Database Profile Building: Compile a master set of data from the City’s scattered data sets to create property profiles of buildings that can be used internally for targeted outreach and statistical analysis. Research and issue recommendations for processes that will ensure the new dataset is kept up to date in the future
- Energy Efficiency Tool Programming and Analysis: Review satellite imagery of the City with snow cover and use machine learning techniques to identify homes with inadequate insulation and match them using GIS to create an internal list of properties in need of better insulation. If there is time, create a simple public mapping tool that property owners can use to view their building. Developing recommendations on how the tool could be used in the future to quantify the suspected loss in terms of energy and money
Marketing and outreach research assistance: Help the City better engage in its sustainability initiatives through the potential projects of:
- Evaluating and improving Cambridge’s current sustainability branding
- Investigating and recommending how the public Registry of Deeds data could be integrated into the City’s outreach efforts around sustainability.
Researching internal practices and/or state and regional policies to advance clean energy and energy education. These research projects may include surveying the city’s current and previous policies, researching state and regional regulations, interviewing other communities, and researching best practices to inform future Cambridge planning efforts. All research projects will include final recommendations, and some may include outlining program design and an implementation plan for the City to pursue. Potential research topics are:
- Sustainability K-12 education practices in Cambridge and beyond
- Bringing solar to residents who are unable to get it otherwise through innovative community solar structures
- Promoting off-site renewable energy development using the community’s purchasing power
An app development project to help residents take sustainable actions – using energy efficient appliances, taking advantage of free home energy services, purchasing renewable energy through their electricity bill, etc. – by researching similar apps, developing concept ideas, and coding an app.
All the work will take place at in an office setting. The fellow will be coordinating with other planners at the City of Cambridge, and may also be communicating with planners at other state and local agencies, and potentially meeting with Boston-area communities.
Specific Skills Required
For data projects, extensive experience with excel and potentially GIS and machine learning; for marketing and outreach research, communications or marketing experience; for research projects, familiarity with and interest in renewable energy and local government and/or familiarity with and interest in environmental education; for app development, coding experience is required. Also for research projects, the ideal candidate should have strong communication skills and experience with independent research. For all projects, the candidate should be a self-starter.
Skills and Experience the Fellow Will Gain
1. An understanding of renewable energy policies and strategies and cities’ roles in a transition from fossil fuels
2. Interview and research skills, where applicable
3. Data and program development skills, where applicable
4. The City is implementing a visionary Net Zero Action Plan to eliminate carbon emissions from buildings by midcentury. The fellow will have the opportunity to learn about other projects and programs related to Net Zero strategy, including meetings with consultants or other planning staff.
Nikhil Nadkarni is an Energy Planner at the City of Cambridge, where he works on energy efficiency programs and long-term net-zero policies. He oversees programs providing energy services to apartment and condo buildings, such as Cambridge’s new multifamily energy pilot. He works closely with other city departments, institutional partners in Cambridge, and other cities’ sustainability officials.