Energy Committee Still Seeking Answers

Business was light at the Marion Energy Management Committee meeting on April 24, as the committee continues to work toward successfully replacing the streetlights with energy-saving LED bulbs. Additionally, committee member Jennifer Francis reported on the pursuit of the substation connection for the proposed Benson Brook Solar Project.

The confusion surrounding the billing practices of Eversource continued to swirl Monday night, compounded by the sheaves of paper that committee member Rob Fisher provided from town hall, copies of the Eversource bills and the town’s accounting for the payments to the electric company.

In order to provide Town Administrator Paul Dawson with a concise comparison of cost savings with the LED lights, the committee is trying to determine the current per light cost of each streetlight.

Based on the information Fisher obtained from town hall, the committee decided to send Fisher, with committee member Bill Saltonstall, back to town hall to sort through the bills more closely with Finance Director Judith Mooney or the town accountant, Kathy Kearns.

Saltonstall related a conversation with Dawson in which Dawson stated, “With Eversource’s new consolidated billing, there is a list of summarized accounts, and when the town makes a payment, the money is merely taken off the top of the total the town owes, not applied to a particular account.”

The committee is hoping to procure the complete bills from Eversource to the town, where they hope to find a breakdown of the cost of rental, service, and energy cost per light. This information is essential to make the argument for the replacement of the existing lights with LED lights.

Based on the committee’s review of the limited information in front of them that evening, it appears the town is charged approximately $2,950 per month for streetlights.

Francis expressed frustration with the pace of the resolution to the substation connection for the Benson Brook Solar Project. Apparently, due to the location of the project, there has been reluctance by the state to move quickly to create the connection.

Francis spoke with Kyle Murray, the attorney for Senator Marc Pacheco’s office, who said he would forward to the Department of Public Utilities a summary of the history of the Benson Brook Solar Project. Francis immediately provided the material, and she remains hopeful that this will keep the project moving forward.

Francis also reported on the popularity of the electric car program in the town. The town currently leases four electric cars, and within a year or so will need to determine if they want to renew the leases, return the cars, or buy them outright.

Recreation Director (and Selectman) Jody Dickerson expressed an interest in getting a Chevy Bolt, since it has a longer driving range per charge. In an email from Evan Melillo, who has been assisting the town in the electric car program, he stated that the state grant program has been very successful. Its popularity has grown such that Marion should act fast if they want any more electric vehicles through the program, Melillo suggested.

In response to the often asked question regarding the conflict of electric cars not running on fossil fuels but being charged by energy generated by fossil fuels, Francis responded that “One-hundred percent of our energy is from wind turbines, so it’s a total win!”

In other business, the committee expressed disappointment at the turn out at their sustainability presentation with Jamie Jacquart last week. Committee member Eileen Marum underscored the value of the talk for town department heads and employees, saying, “Those folks would have benefited the most from the information presented.”

The next meeting of the Marion Energy Management Committee is scheduled for May 22 at 7:00 pm at the Marion Music Hall.

Marion Energy Management Committee

By Sarah French Storer


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