Putting a Charge into Grounded Energy Efforts?
Article 33 is resident David Allen's idea for picking up where plans for a solar array fell off over the past few years, but key decision-makers say economics, as well as the environment, are an important part of the town's energy equation.
According to its petitioner, Article 33, labeled the Town Sustainable Electricity Acquisition Process, is a follow-up to 2010's Article 64 which voted to install a solar array in Concord.
The 2010 article passed, and a company was chosen to install the array, but the process was never carried out. Following Article 64's fizzle, the Concord Campaign for Quality Governance created a detailed report of what went wrong, and now the citizen's group's leader, David Allen, is ready to take the next step to get the town's grounded energy efforts back on track.
Allen is one of the key driving forces behind Article 33. According to his website, concord-trustingtheprocess.org, the article “is about reducing greenhouse impact.” It's also about process, he said.
"We want the town to adopt a criteria for carbon reduction per dollar invested," Allen told Patch. "Two years have been wasted trying to get a sustainable energy supply for Concord. ... What the articles moves forward is it moves beyond these failures, it asks ourselves what our objective is here. And that is to reduce our carbon imprint.”
Allen believes wind power, and not solar, and should be the focus for a greener Concord moving forward. Another key factor in a greener Concord would be for town officials to take time to research and join forces with developers, like minded-towns and other partners who are working towards green living, he said.
Allen said time will be the biggest resource for which he and his supporters will be asking, specifically of those at the Municipal Light Plant and Public Works.
“There were over a thousand hours wasted working on Article 64," Allen said. "Article 33 will seek to move things in the right direction once again."
The selectmen's position on this issue is one of no action.
In a prepared statment he provided Patch, Town Manager Chris Whelan said he believes it's important to consider both sustainability and affordability, and Article 33 ignores the financial impact to ratepayers.
Whelan explained that he's supportive of the town's diversified energy portfolio, which includes a 15-year contract for wind power and others for hydro, but would support purchasing Concord-produced power if the price was right.
"As a fiduciary, I think it is important to pursue both sustainability and affordability at the same time. I don’t support the concept that state and federal subsidies for solar power should be disregarded. We don’t have sufficient wind in Concord to justify an investment in wind turbines here, so we will continue to explore opportunities to purchase wind-generated power from other location," Whelan said. "But if we can purchase solar power generated in Concord at half the price or less than wind power from Maine, I feel strongly we should pursue that solution to achieve our goals of providing “green energy” at an affordable price. ... There should be a balance struck between sustainability and affordability as we move away from carbon-based fuels that damage the environment.”
When it comes to wind, Whelan simply doesn't think it makes sense from the financial perspective.
"Disregarding the price of wind power and the cost to develop it has been tried with the Cape Wind project. Ratepayers will be paying 27 cents per kilowatt hour for that power in contrast with the price of solar power in the range of 5 to 10 cents Massachusetts communities are seeing," Whelan said. "Article 33 ignores the economic impact to ratepayers completely, which I think would be unwise. There should be a balance struck between sustainability and affordability as we move away from carbon-based fuels that damage the environment.”
David Wood, director at the Concord Municipal Light Plant (CMLP) also touched on balancing economics with the environment in developing a renewable energy strategy and power portfolio.
Wood gave Patch this prepared statement weighing in on the issue:
In January of 2011 the Municipal Light Board adopted a renewable energy strategy. This strategy sets out to expand the Municipal Light Plants renewable energy portfolio. For CMLP to achieve the goals in the strategy CMLP will need access to all types of renewable energy sources. Currently 13% of CMLP's power portfolio comes from cost effective renewable energy supplies such as Wind from Woodstock Maine, Hydro from Lisbon Falls Maine and New York as well as Landfill Gas from Ware Massachusetts. Working with Energy New England, CMLP will continue to expand Concord's renewable power supply portfolio. When evaluating renewable energy supplies we are very mindful of the economics. I do not think it is appropriate to pay a premium just to increase Concord's percentage. Doing that would only increase electric rates which is something that we are very sensitive to. Overall, "in Town" utility scale solar is a viable and economical option and without it in the equations whether short term or long the renewable strategy cannot be met without paying a premium for renewable energy.
Article 33 comes to a vote next week at Town Meeting.