The Marion Energy Management Committee didn’t have to take any formal votes during its March 22 meeting, but the agenda had the committee covering some of the green hot topics happening now and eventually in Marion’s future, beginning with renewable energy.
Marion and the other 23 member municipalities of the state’s largest collective Community Electricity Aggregation (CEA) program are a few months into another three-year contract for locked-in electricity rates that began in January 2021. The program that negotiates a competitive, locked-in price for its member communities is an “opt-out” program that defaults to the CEA price unless residents and businesses opt out to independently shop for lower electricity prices.
Marion residents who take no action are currently locked-in for three years at a rate of $0.10470 per kilowatt-hour compared to Eversource’s basic rate of $0.11795 per kWh, which is subject to change every six months. The committee’s focus Monday night was on options for residents to opt in to source 50 percent of 100 percent of their electricity from renewable energy.
The CEA program already includes a mandatory 10 percent in renewable energy sources, mandated by the commonwealth. Residents may choose to source more, with 50 percent of their electricity from green renewable energy at a slightly higher cost of $0.12244/kWh. Sourcing 100 percent renewable energy changes the kWh price to $0.14019.
“This really bugs me,” said committee member Jennifer Francis. She clarified that it would be a 40 percent increase if one wanted to go 100-percent renewable (the kWh price increase is more like 33.89 percent). She compared it to the solar-power purchase agreement (PPA) the town has with Future Generation Wind that resulted in a 20-percent discount in electricity and said she found it weird that a developer could charge residents a higher amount for renewable energy while the town gets this “amazing discount.” It doesn’t make sense to her.
Committee member Alanna Nelson said she agreed, but also pointed out that the entire electric bill doesn’t increase by 40 percent, just the actual cost of electricity. In addition to the cost of electricity, electric bills also include, for example, a cost to deliver the electricity. Still, if residents are committed to sourcing renewable energy at a more competitive rate, they could shop around and possibly find a better deal.
Committee member Bill Saltonstall said he expected electricity rates to steadily increase over time, but has instead found that rates have remained relatively stable for some years. He then held up a piece of mail he received from a renewable-energy company outside of the CEA and commented on its sense of urgency that the receiver “take action now,” which might confuse some consumers enough to leave the CEA thinking they would find better rates. “I don’t know what kind of luck they’re having,” he commented.
The committee wondered if it should take any official action to discourage residents from responding to the mail that other committee members have also received but took no such vote. The committee did direct residents to marionma.gov for further information or to act on their membership in the CEA.
To opt up, opt out or opt back in, you can do so over at masscea.com/marion/.
The committee also talked about electric car stations in town. It may consider a charging station bylaw in the future that would encourage developers to “think in a forward way” and include charging stations in their site plans.
Committee member Eileen Marum pointed to the global trend to quit producing new cars that run solely on fossil fuels, for example, by 2035 in the State of California. “Before you know it, that time will be upon us,” said Marum. She later said, if a housing developer did opt to include some charging stations, it might be a selling point for someone with an electric vehicle or thinking about getting one because running an extension cord down from a condo to a parking lot is not a great option.
“People have anxiety over where the next charging station is, and this would provide some reassurance … and this might encourage them to rent or purchase [an electric car] at this part development,” said Marum.
In other matters, Hilario reported that the library windows would arrive in April, sooner than expected. He will also be attending a walk-through meeting on March 30 with town staff and representatives of the Green Communities grant program to assess the wastewater treatment plant for potential Green Communities grant projects.
The next meeting of the Marion Energy Management Committee will be held on Monday, April 26, at 5:00 pm.
Marion Energy Management Committee
By Jean Perry