Back in 2016 the Town of Fairhaven, along with 22 other communities, signed onto an Electric Aggregation program aimed to save rate payers in our region on their electric bills by joining forces to purchase electricity in bulk (https://masscea.com/).
To date, the program has saved Fairhaven rate payers alone 9% on their electricity costs, and $1.5 million. That is money that has stayed in our community to help our local economy.
In the new, 3 year contract that goes into effect in January, there are already provisions that allow for any resident or business to voluntarily purchase either 50% additional or 100% additional renewable energy, above and beyond the 18% minimum standard required by the state.
The Fairhaven Sustainability Committee and a local group called Climate Reality has created a survey to ask if you would like to see the Town of Fairhaven make the default position for every resident and business to be that they will pay for an additional 10% renewable and if you do not want that option, you would need to take action to opt out.
I do not believe we should be putting our community in that position. I am very sensitive to concerns some people on a fixed income may have about even a small increase in their electric bill. I would also be concerned that people not following this issue might not understand why their bill has increased. They might just attribute the increase to standard rate increase, and not realize they have the option to take action to eliminate that charge.
I am particularly concerned about the timing, given we are still reeling from the impact of COVID-19, and its devastating impact on the job market and businesses of all sizes.
Advocates for the change believe the Town should take a leadership position in Renewable Energy. My feeling is that the Town already has done so, by becoming designated as a Green Community, permitting two wind turbines, adopting bylaws that are friendly to solar development, partnering with solar development companies to build arrays atop our capped landfill, public works buildings, Housing Authority buildings, and soon on two elementary schools.
Consider that, in the State of Massachusetts, we already pay among the highest rates for electricity in the country, and our rates are already 75% higher than the national average! (https://www.eia.gov/state/rankings/#/serie)
A key contributor to this ranking is that the State of Massachusetts is already a leader in supporting Energy Efficiency Programs, Renewables and other environmentally sensitive initiatives.
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts takes a top down approach, with mandated Renewable and clean Energy programs already embedded in our electricity charges and, by doing so, assures everyone in the State is contributing equally. I believe that if advocates feel we should be doing more as a society, they should be advocating at the State (or even Federal) level to ensure everyone is doing their fair share and that whatever mandates are in place are having the greatest impact.
I would like to conclude by explaining that I am a big supporter of Renewable Energy. My wife and I invested in a Solar Photovoltaic system for our own roof back in early 2009. We were among the very first in our area to do so, and we have not had an electric bill since then.
I have also already pledged my support to the advocates of this survey that I would help them with an education and advocacy campaign this year to encourage people to voluntarily sign on to purchase 10%, 50% or even 100% of their electricity as renewable in this next year and to see how that goes as a litmus test.
My interest is in making certain that people make a conscious decision to support this effort, rather than having it be a default position for everyone, even the unknowing.
As an alternative, I would challenge those most in favor of an increase to lead the way voluntarily. If 20% of the people were to increase their own renewable percentage by 50%, that would have the same impact as the 10% across the board increase being proposed. That sort of leadership would likely inspire others to join in with at least 10% and the impact would be far greater than what is being proposed.
In the end, the most important thing is for you to take the survey* and let the Town know how you feel. The Town really needs a significant number of people to take the survey so that we know we have reached a good cross-section of the community before any decision is made.
Bob Espindola, Fairhaven
Mr. Espindola is a member of the Fairhaven Selectboard
Take the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/3TCQT8J
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