Statewide initiative for renewable energy, available for towns and cities

Massachusetts has a new opportunity to support renewable energy at the city level. Yesterday I attended a presentation about Community Electricity Aggregation, which allows cities and towns in Massachusetts to get renewable energy and save money in the process. It's a win-win (except for fossil fuel companies). The cities and towns combine together to get the best possible rates from competiing providers of renewable energy. The big electrical utilities, who are not generally allies on climate change, seem to be neutral on this issue.

The renewable energy comes mostly from wind farms. A spokesman from Mass Energy, which is working on this project, said they consider wind the most promising source of renewable energy. One advantage of using mostly wind input is that the aggregation does not depend on the fate of net metering. Of course, Mass Energy supports solar as well, and wants the cap on net metering to be lifted.

The statewide project was initiated by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, working with four municipalities: Arlington, Somerville, Newton, and Sudbury. Together, they chose a company called Good Energy to help cities and towns join this clean energy project. Good Energy will attend any meetings in your town that you ask them to join, and will guide you to getting the project approved in your town. It requires a vote in a Town Meeting and some documents filed with state agencies.

The meeting threw a lot of information at us, which I don't claim to have processed completely. The presentation involved four or five wonky speakers from different organizations, and frankly, it made Talmud study seem linear and simple by comparison.

One take-away I had from the meeting is that the state requirement for renewable energy (Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS) is heading in the right direction but is insufficient. It require municipalities to improve their use of renewables 1% per year, but 2% is required to avoid the worst effects of global warming. The Community Electricity Aggregation adds an extra 5% to the RPS requirement. It compensates for most of the cost by finding cheaper sources of energy than standard sources.

Melrose was an early adopter of the aggregation approach. In order to add 5% to the state requirement for RPS, they charged each resident about 50 cents a day more. Residents could opt out, and a grand total of 17 did so.

The sign-up process for a municipality is 5 to 8 months. If you'd like to pursue this in your town, I can put you in touch with the people working on the project.