EMC Prepares Push to Influence Major Projects

            An October 3 letter composed by Marion Energy Management Committee member Jennifer Francis that is meant for the Select Board was updated in a group-editing session toward the end of the EMC’s November 22 Zoom meeting.

            The letter proposes policies and measures that would necessarily steer the town away from the consumption of fossil fuels and toward electric power by discouraging any new infrastructure reliant on fossil fuels.

            After a consensus on changes including the softening of some language, the committee agreed to have Francis send final edits to Chairman Christian Ingerslev before submittal to Marion’s highest elected officials.

            The timing of the letter is purposefully thought out as the Town of Marion jumps into the energy aspects of major proposed construction projects: the new Marine Center (harbormaster headquarters) and Department of Public Works facilities.

            EMC member Eileen Marum has been doggedly determined to push for net-zero energy consumption in the new facilities, and she reported to the EMC on a discussion with Representative William Straus.

            “He was very interested in the net-zero aspect of it. His feeling is that all of this work needs to start at the local level,” said Marum, who also told the committee that Straus believes there is money available at the state level potentially to help make the harbormaster headquarters a net-zero building. Marum said Straus made a note to contact the Select Board or Town Administrator Jay McGrail on the matter.

            An hour later in the Marine Resources Commission meeting, Harbormaster Isaac Perry said that the small size of the new Marine Center makes it a difficult structure for net-zero energy, but he acknowledged the potential success of a town-wide approach.

            “I hope that the town gets behind these net-zero buildings because this is a topic that’s gaining steam at top of government. … The time for action is now, we’re actually behind the curve on this,” said Marum, who attended a League of Women Voters meeting this month at the St. Gabriel’s Church in which attendees were asked to prioritize five items. She reported that everyone in attendance had climate change at the top of her priorities.

            EMC member Bill Saltonstall went on the recent facilities tour and reported discussion with McGrail, whom he said extended an invitation to a meeting being held next week at the Town House, where architects, Perry and McGrail will discuss the new Marine Center.

            “The town needs to be net zero, and getting to net zero can happen a lot of different ways,” said Saltonstall. “It might happen if we provide the power (via solar projects). Jay recognizes the need to come up with a way to benefit from the town building a solar project. Right now we don’t have any, and it doesn’t seem reasonable to put him in a position where we can’t take advantage of more solar projects.”

            Saltonstall said the architects and engineers designing the Marine Center and the proposed DPW facility are thinking about heating systems, noting the unlikelihood of gas at Benson Brook. Saltonstall told the EMC members that a well-insulated building equipped with heat pumps might not “get all the way to net zero, but there may be ways for the town to make up a way to get to net zero. … The architect was most reasonable, he’s done a lot of these facilities.”

            Ingerslev asserted that to some extent Marion is already at net zero via wind power.

            Right now, EMC members are trying to figure out how to plot the difference between the amount of energy actually used and the amount supplied by Future Generation Wind so they can determine a maximum amount of energy allowable from solar power. “That’s an exercise in progress right now, trying to get that all figured out,” he said.

            Saltonstall estimates that 95 to 100 percent of the town’s power is coming from Future Generation Wind. There was debate as to how to interpret the limitations that the contract with Future Generation Wind places on the town in its effort to maximize its energy production.

            Marion is five years into a 20-year contract with Future Generation Wind.

            Saltonstall publicly credited SRPEDD’s Danica Belknap for her assistance in completing the data input for the town’s report to Green Communities, which was submitted a couple of days early. Belknap also assisted with the submission of the Music Hall and Taber Library heating-system grant requests.

            Francis made sure to thank Saltonstall for “months and months and months” of labor of legwork and clerical work on the Green Communities front. Saltonstall paid forward his thanks to EMC member Alanna Nelson for chasing down related information on vehicles.

            The EMC will not meet in December. The next meeting of the EMC is scheduled for Monday, January 24, 2022 at 5:00 pm.

Marion Energy Management Committee

By Mick Colageo

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