An Update from the Concord Light Board: The Energy Revolution Comes to Town
With overwhelming support, the 2017 Annual Town Meeting took a huge step toward a green energy future for Concord, adopting Energy Futures Task Force’s recommendation to reduce town greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions 25% by 2020 and 80% by 2050. Also in 2017, Concord’s Municipal Light Plant (CMLP) developed strategic plan to contribute toward those goals.
To present the plan and gather feedback from the Town, the Light Plant and Board have undertaken a series of public outreach events as well as presented an overview of the plan at Town Meeting in April. Outreach events were held at the Town House last November, with the League of Women Voters in December, and most recently at a special evening meeting of the Light Board in May. We have heard from many who are eager to make good on those 2017 Annual Town Meeting commitments, and also from some who have raised concerns about affordability and technologies.
Today, about 12% of Concord’s power supply portfolio is renewable energy. CMLP is now shifting its supplies from conventional to carbon-free power such as solar, hydro, wind, nuclear, and others. For example, we buy wind energy from Spruce Mountain and hydro energy from Brown Bear, both in Maine. As gas-based energy contracts expire, new contracts will provide opportunities to incorporate non-emitting electricity sources.
While the share of green energy in the power supply grows, CMLP will also purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to offset emissions from remaining conventional power. To do this, the Light Board held a public rate hearing and voted in June to raise electricity rates by 1 cent per kilowatt-hour, effective September 2018. The current rate is 14.4-18.7 cents per kWh, depending on a customer’s consumption level. The monthly bill for an average household consuming 916 kWh (currently about $140) will increase by $9. Concord’s rates will remain relatively unchanged compared to other municipal light plants in the state and will continue to be considerably lower than communities served by investor-owned utilities. With the additional revenue, CMLP can “green” about 16% of Concord’s power in the last quarter of 2018 and about half of our 2019 power supply, and possibly more if prices of RECs continue to fall. As Concord’s electricity becomes increasingly green, CMLP will encourage customers to shift to electricity for transportation, home heat, and hot water needs, to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reduce energy costs. With a green electricity supply, switching to electricity for transportation and heating and cooling has an even greater positive environmental impact.
The light plant offers many services to help rate payers lower their energy bills, including low income assistance, commercial and residential energy conservation rebate programs, and the innovative HeatSmart home heating program. The light plant is also making investments to lower system costs and improve resiliency such as a new billing system, smart grid infrastructures, in-town solar projects, undergrounding and other initiatives. The light board will be looking at ways to decrease ratepayer costs by offering rates that depend on the time of day. Looking ahead, other rate changes are being considered to more fairly allocate overhead and energy costs between rate payers, but any changes are expected to keep overall revenue collection unchanged.
Concord is increasingly recognized as a leader in clean energy and sustainability. The purchase of RECs and the addition of renewable energy to the local power supply adds value to CMLP’s service and demonstrates CMLP’s commitment to sustainability. Stay tuned for updates from CMLP and your Light Board by following CMLP on Twitter, visiting the CMLP website, or attending our monthly meetings to follow as Concord’s energy future becomes Concord’s energy present.
Concord Light Board members include Gordon Brockway (chair), Peggy Briggs, Dan Gainsboro, Wendy Rovelli, and Lynn Salinger.
For further information about the Concord Light Board, please visit their webpage.