LWV OBSERVER CORPS: Light Commission, May 30

Marblehead League of Women Voters Observer Corps
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Observer Corps Reports are provided by volunteers from the Marblehead League of Women Voters. To learn more about the League and its activities, see my.lwv.org/massachusetts/marblehead.

BOARD: Municipal Light Commission

DATE: May 30


MEMBERS IN ATTENDANCE:  Jean Jacques Yarmoff, Michael Hull (chair), Simon Frechette, Adam Smith, Lisa Wolf, General Manager Joe Kowalik

GUESTS: From Massachusetts Municipal Wholesale Electric Company, Justin Connell, director of energy markets; Zoe Eckhart, sustainable energy products rep

Meeting called to order at 4:01 p.m.


The minutes for the meeting of May 4 were approved.

Public comments

A question was asked about posting the agenda earlier. Kowalik said he aims for one week before. A follow-up question was asked about the time of 4 p.m. for meeting and the difficulty of that time for the public to attend.  Members of the board commented that time is planned around the best time for members of the board. A follow-up question was asked about if minutes are posted, and Kowalik stated they are on the website. A final question was asked about a green space near the attendee’s home. The board discussed adding this to a future agenda.

Power portfolio update

This update was not a voting item today. Kowalik asked for discussion about the approach to this topic from the MMLD Commission.

Wolf and Kowalik created a graph showing data from a Green Marblehead report. It represents the Marblehead “big picture,” showing total energy used over the past decade, and that Marblehead’s demand for electricity has been remaining flat. Based on climate concerns and state requirements around electrification, the MMLD and ISO New England are now forecasting growth for Marblehead over the next 10 years.

The graph also projected target minimum state goals for green energy over the next 20 to 30 years and showed whether Marblehead would meet its goals. For 2040, the town did not have a clear plan on how to meet required state green energy goals. There was a discussion of how MMLD must include off-shore wind into our portfolio to help us meet goals.

Green Marblehead goals are also reflected on the graph and are pushing up the state targets of 2050 to 10 years earlier. Graph shows nuclear, hydro, carbon-free and wind-energy levels. Solar is not reflected on this graph, but it should be considered as we set goals. This graph will continue to be presented to the public.

Yarmoff discussed how there will be other sources or there are other sources that exist to give us good, cheap long-term contracts. He stated the importance of being aggressive about pursuing these contracts. Yarmoff thanked the Green Marblehead team for its work, and he asked for five-year goals, aiming for something reachable.

Discussion followed regarding other municipalities and how their portfolios are made up of carbon-free and how it compares to Marblehead.

Motion was put forward for a more aggressive target based on Yarmoff’s request: Goal of reaching 70% carbon-free within five years and 85% carbon-free within 10 years. Discussion ensued. Graphs of current portfolio and proposed projects were highlighted. Cost per kilowatt hour was discussed. A graph of proposed projects vs. school solar was presented and discussed. Kowalik is meeting with MMWEC to discuss the school solar numbers to resolve questions. Discussion of grants to help put roofs on schools since MMLD will be responsible for roofs if panels are put on. Kowalik mentioned policy decisions that need to be made by the state over the next few years regarding wind and solar. Discussion was held on the difficulty of reaching goals within five years. It is aspirational.  

Motion seconded and vote taken: Vote: all yes with one no

There were general comments from the public about the vote taken. Further discussion and explanation occurred.

Solar on schools discussion

Connell and Eckhart reported on these programs, which are eligible for federal tax exemptions. Map was shown of Marblehead of available credits for various school locations in town.

A rooftop solar project financial analysis was presented. Cost of kilowatt hour for the solar was discussed year over year by comparing the cost and revenue. The board is reviewing this for the first time, but a decision needs to be made by the MMLD on solar. Lisa asked MMWEC representatives for additional assumptions to be built into the model.

There will be a meeting [the following] Thursday, and MMLD attorney will be there for further discussion on power options based on the graph and its assumptions. The committee will continue to work with the graph and explore options.   

Coastal Zone Management grant update

The following day was an important deadline for application to Massachusetts Environmental Protection Agency for a permit to do this work.  Kowalik stated it is a significant document, and he presented a few slides to explain the work that will need to happen (ie: docks replaced, seawalls re-done or moved, etc.). It will become a significant dredging project, and at the same time public access is to be expanded.

No decision needs to be made by the board. The application will be submitted although Kowalik did ask the board to review a letter that was sent with the grant. Kowalik will begin going out for bids on this project.

80 Commercial St. fence update

A bid came in that seemed high. The plan is to resubmit it in a smaller scope after consultation with the town attorney. Yarmoff had asked for tighter parameters, which would also lower cost.

GM updates

  • There will be a PPA rate reduction in June.
  • Bessom Street entry to Village 13 – Hull met with property owner, and abutter easement has been ok’d.
  • Utility battery site location: Vine Street/Rec and Park is not an option. Hull and Kowalik went to the site and specified the footprint, but Rec and Park said it would not work. Locations on 23 Tioga Way were visited, and Kowalik encouraged MMLD members to visit the site. Public comments asked about this process. A question asked when neighbors would be notified of possible construction since she did not want any backlash. Hull explained a solution is a public forum for abutters after the engineer has been on the site.  
  • Union contract update 2023-2026: Negotiations are complete, and contracts are signed. One outstanding item is the cost of benefits, which the town needs to provide.
  • APPA certificate of excellence in reliability was received.

Next meeting

The next meeting of the Light Commission will be on Tuesday, June 27.

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