Energy Aggregate Caught in a Stall

The Rochester Select Board got some bad news Monday night regarding the energy-bill-lowering Energy Aggregate Plan created at the approval of the 2019 Annual Town Meeting. The town’s energy consultant, John O’Rourke, told the board that three years after that vote the state has yet to fully approve the town’s money-saving plan.

            If approved, the town would able to negotiate a less expensive per kilowatt rate for electricity than Eversource offers most utility customers. Town residents would automatically be billed under that yet-to-determined lower rate; they would have to opt out to not share that rate.

            The town’s Energy Aggregate Program Plan received Department of Public Utilities approval in December of 2021, O’Rourke said, but the town has not been awarded approval of its next step, its “compliance filing” that was sent to the DPU in January 2022.

            The DPU, in fact, has not endorsed the compliance plans of several towns, let alone Rochester, O’Rourke said. “So it’s a big delay from the department,” he said.

            O’Rourke noted that the steps remaining after this approval will include soliciting and reviewing public outreach and education efforts before finalizing the actual Electrical Supply Agreement. He speculated that national trends in energy policy may be to blame for the delay. In a later interview, however, he declined to elaborate.

            Select Board member Woody Hartley asked O’Rourke if speaking to the town’s state representatives and senators would help move things along. Hartley said he expected a result sooner than this. “Now it looks like we’re not getting it done by summer like I hoped,” he said.

            O’Rourke declined to advise further action, saying he is simply their consultant on the project itself. This led to Hartley to propose action anyway. He motioned that the town contact state house representatives to advance the issue, and the board agreed.

            Under good news, the board signed a two-year extension of the Emergency Dispatch Inter-municipal Agreement the town has had with the Duxbury-headquartered Regional Old Colony Communications Center (ROCC) since 2018.

            For the past four years, the Duxbury center has handled all the 911 calls and Police, Fire and EMS dispatching for the Town of Rochester, as well as the region’s other members, Duxbury, Plympton and Halifax.

            Expressing no complaints with the system that closed down the town’s dispatching department in 2018, the board swiftly agreed to extend the agreement after receiving mostly good news about the center’s future.

            Center director Michael Mahoney reported that several more towns are expressing interest in joining the regional dispatching center. “Some are just ‘kicking the tires’ to decide whether to join us or actively interested in joining us,” he said.

            Fairhaven and Pembroke are among those interested in joining, Mahoney said. He also noted plans are in place to upgrade the technology the center uses to connect its member towns with fiber-optic cable. By then the regional dispatching center may have enough members to make it a contiguous, centralized, dispatching region. He said there are also plans to establish a regional enterprise fund that pays all expenses from its own revenues.

            In other action, the board agreed to allow the old Council on Aging Senior Center shed to be used for firefighting practice by the town Fire Department. Town Administrator Glen Cannon noted this shed has already been replaced by a new structure and would have been torn down anyway.

            The board approved an Arbor Day ceremony at the Senior Center on Friday, May 20, at 5:30 pm. Highway Surveyor Jeff Eldridge has planted nine new trees there, and that is where the event will take place.

            The board also reminded residents the Annual Town Meeting will be held on Monday, May 23, at 7:00 pm at Rochester Memorial School. The Town Election will be held at the Senior Center on Wednesday, May 25, from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm.

Rochester Select Board

By Michael J. DeCicco

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