EMC Finds 20% Reduction Elusive

            The Marion Energy Management Committee met on Monday and unanimously voted to approve a new mission statement meant to both encompass the traditional actions of the committee as a research-and-development department for the town’s cost cutters and identify with its more-recent focus as a think tank for a coastal community addressing the long-term ramifications of climate change.

            The statement reads: “The Energy Management Committee (EMC) develops and implements initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from, and energy consumption by, Marion’s municipal, residential, commercial, industrial and institutional sectors.”

            EMC Chairman Christian Ingerslev will bring the mission statement to town officials in an effort to get it posted on the committee’s page at marionma.gov.

            Meantime, the Town of Marion met its deadline to file its Green Communities Report. But EMC member Bill Saltonstall was not pleased to report that the town’s effort to reach the state-prescribed 20% energy reduction over a five-year period has, technically at least, regressed.

            “We lost some ground on our percentage (of energy reduction) … we’re now sitting at 16.1% of the 20(%) we wanted,” said Saltonstall, tracing the problem to a missed opportunity to report the data relating to the Silvershell Beach pumping station’s changeover from oil to natural gas.

            Saltonstall credited SRPEDD’s Danica Belknap for discovering the fact of the missing fuel data at Silvershell Pumping Station.

            “We slipped up, I guess, on making sure the new charges for gas were entered automatically for Mass Energy Insight,” he explained. “I’ve added all the data for the last year manually, but that data we hadn’t considered before.”

            According to Saltonstall, Marion used a lot more diesel and gasoline than the prior year as well. He anticipates the Police Department will request a new vehicle and that EMC member Alanna Nelson should urge the department to request a hybrid model. Nelson agreed, citing potential grant funding. “‘And here’s the grant program that could help you pay for it. I can do that,” she replied.

            Opportunities for other photovoltaics on municipal properties were briefly discussed.

            “I went to the dump and I would sure like to see those panels out there,” said Saltonstall, whose son Will Saltonstall is the contracted architect for the new Department of Public Works operations center at Benson Brook. Bill Saltonstall told the committee he asked Will Saltonstall for the DPW roof plan so he can evaluate its potential for solar, but “they don’t have it yet. … He promised it to me soon.”

The Cushing Community Center’s expansion will include a roof capable of holding solar panels, but solar canopy over the parking lot at Sippican Elementary School is now considered unlikely.

            Calling it a cumbersome construction, Nelson said CVEC’s first impression is that with the price of steel increasing, finding a willing developer is a greater challenge. Alternative building materials were briefly discussed, and EMC member Tom Friedman said that concrete posts could potentially take some of the load normally carried by steel. Saltonstall said steel maintains an advantage because of the cantilever construction. “That’s going to be hard to beat.”

            According to Saltonstall, the initial Green Communities report suggested that Marion could benefit from installing energy-efficient transformers at the DPW and at Sippican Elementary School. Member Jennifer Francis called it “a good project … nicely contained.”

            Having swung for the fences with its proposal that the town commit to a ban on the use of fossil fuels in all new municipal construction, the EMC is augmenting that effort by expanding its discouragement of fossil-fuel burning to all new construction in Marion, including private projects.

            Francis suggested a letter go out to homeowners listing state-sponsored incentive programs to upgrade hot-water heaters and furnaces. “It would be good to have (this kind of information) all clear and in one place to help people make the right kinds of choices, especially if there’s money involved,” she said. “The stretch code are rules, but it’s good to have a carrot out there for people.”

            Saltonstall believes there is potential for $10,000 assistance for a private homeowner to change heating and cooling systems from fossil fuels to electric.

            Nelson told the EMC she attended a Zoom call and learned about Abode Energy Management’s tax incentives for homeowners who heat with wood.

            “I would highly recommend anybody thinking about a strategy … I thought Abode was a great hour and $100 to spend,” said Nelson, explaining that a homeowner needs to conduct a MassSave Energy Audit before gaining any available conversion benefits.

            According to Nelson, Tabor Academy recently hosted a Community Outreach event with different organizations represented, and Nelson told the EMC after speaking with Steve Sanford of Tabor’s Finance Department that the school plans two car-charging stations earmarked toward day students.

            The committee is discontented by the loose ends it faces where it concerns its hopes to influence an increase in electric-vehicle charging stations in Marion.

            At the Town House, there are two spots dedicated for charging, but only one car can be hooked up at a time, it was reported.

            Ingerslev said the Cushing Community Center has a charging cable meant to be available to private citizens, but the parking spot there is typically occupied for the day. Nelson suggested finding out if priority parking at that space is “a matter of habit or a matter of policy.”

            It was not known during the meeting if the charging station near the harbormaster’s headquarters is working. Saltonstall said the harbormaster’s headquarters should be able to take a couple of charging stations, but he also said there is “not enough juice along Island Wharf Road.” Ingerslev said the EMC needs to make sure they install sufficient power when the Marine Center upgrades to a new facility.

            In discussing how Tabor’s facilities are a step ahead and representing “forward thinking,” Nelson noted that Tabor has replaced the old-school freezing formula at Travis Roy Rink and is now using natural gas as a safer, more energy-efficient method.

            When the Planning Board was vetting Tabor Academy’s new Student Center (library) presently under construction, Eileen Marum, a member of both the EMC and he Planning Board, requested five charging stations near the site, at the time citing Governor Charlie Baker’s plans for energy-reduction goals by 2030.

            “They were kind of holding back,” said Marum. “I also wanted them to run the wires for charging stations. It would save them a lot of money to not go back and dig up the streets. They thought that was too expensive. … But if they are moving ahead, that’s great news.”

            Negotiations are underway to establish a lease amount for the Benson Brook capped landfill solar project. According to Nelson, a net-metering issue is likely to limit the exploration of other options, making a straight lease the method through which the town will realize revenue from the project.

            The Marion Energy Management Committee is not scheduled to meet again until 2023.

Marion Energy Management Committee

By Mick Colageo

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