LETTER: Marblehead’s energy transition will take a village

To the editor: 

Richard Smith raises some important issues regarding the energy transition Marblehead and other communities are currently facing (“Net zero goal is laudable, but transition demands more time,” Dec. 14, 2022). As members of Sustainable Marblehead’s Clean Energy Working Group, we are encouraged by his and others’ interest and offer the following additional information. 

Because of the urgency of the climate crisis and its impact on our seaside town, the Marblehead Select Board voted unanimously in November 2020 to adopt a goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. The town’s Green Marblehead Committee is now working on a plan to reach that goal, which is expected to be released early next year. As has been the case throughout this process, residents will have an opportunity to comment on all aspects of the plan.

With respect to the cars we drive, which represent nearly a third of our carbon emissions, Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law in August 2022 legislation requiring that no internal combustion vehicles be sold in the commonwealth after Jan. 1, 2035. This is no longer a hypothetical question; it is a reality for which we need to prepare in a careful and deliberative manner. 

The amount of electricity that will be consumed in town is very likely going to increase, because of the growing number of electric vehicles and a new building code which will require greater building electrification. To ensure that we are prepared to meet this growing demand, the Marblehead Municipal Light Department (MMLD) and the Marblehead Light Commission are putting in place a long-term strategic plan which will outline these challenges and provide a path forward. In the meantime, MMLD is rebuilding and upgrading our main substation to handle this higher electric load. This is one of the largest, if not the largest, investments in our infrastructure that MMLD has ever made, and we applaud MMLD and the Light Commission for taking this decisive action.

But let us also be very clear: the unprecedented rate increases that we are seeing are being caused exclusively by increases in the price of fossil fuels. The more we can wean ourselves from gas and oil, the better off we will be, economically. The reason that our rate increases are less than what neighboring towns are experiencing is that we have a higher percentage of electricity generated by non-carbon emitting sources. This is good for our pocketbooks and the planet.   

MMLD will not – by itself – resolve all the issues that this energy transition will require. We will need every resident and ratepayer to be engaged on issues like electric vehicle parking and charging and the transition to building electrification – but also willing to conserve energy if we have an extreme weather event this winter that stretches the resources of our Light Department. 

You can get involved by attending Light Commission meetings (see the town website for meeting dates and times), signing up for Code Red on the town’s website to receive important weather-related information (see icon on lower left of the page), and visiting Sustainable Marblehead’s website to learn what more you can do to help. See the “Take Action” tab at the top of the page.   

Lynn Bryant, Gregory Street

Petra Langer, Prospect Court

Eileen Haley Mathieu, Longview Drive

Letter to the editor
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