David Wood, Director of the Concord Municipal Light Plant (the "CMLP"), spoke at a Dec. 1 First Friday program, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Concord-Carlisle at the Fowler Library in West Concord. Wood's presentation followed an announcement by the CMLP that residents and businesses in Concord could see their electricity rates increase 22% over a four-year period starting in early 2018.
Wood acknowledged that the Light Plant "has to be very careful with ratepayer money." He provided thoughtful highlights of the reasons for the increases, which are to help the Town reduce its greenhouse gas levels and to promote more environmental-friendly energy use. The Light Plant and the Concord Light Board have created a Strategic Plan that highlights fuel switching and electric vehicles, rate design, purchase power agreements and renewable energy, energy storage and smart thermostats, and energy efficiency. The day before the League program, the Light Plant added distributed solar (adding solar panels to your home or business) to the list of initiatives in the Strategic Plan that the Light Plant will pursue.
Wood and his staff members fielded questions about the rate increase, emphasizing that they were seeking a balanced approach involving sustainability, RECs (renewable energy credits), smart meters and smarter thermostats, and while encouraging the conversion from natural gas to electric heat. Discussion followed about how the Light Plant and Light Board have interpreted the Town's energy goals under the 2017 Warrant Article 51.
Most of the people in attendance had read the Concord Journal commentary by Jill Appel, former member of the Light Board, Finance Committee, and Energy Future Task Force. Her piece appeared on November 30th, the day before the League's gathering; she stated, "No rate increases should be approved until we have a five-year financial plan that clearly shows all initiatives, their price tags and ratepayer impact." That concern, coupled with questions from attendees about institutional challenges, incentives to encourage residential heat pumps, the need for public charging stations for electric cars, improved community outreach, and concerns about the burden of increases on the community in general, led to a lively and productive exchange of ideas.
In response to League and community concerns about the rate hike, the Light Plant and Light Board have delayed the January 1, 2018 implementation of the new electricity rate increases (announced in September) to at least February or March 2018 to allow time for more input from residents and businesses. The Light Board will also have a public hearing once the new rate design is complete. After the program Diane Proctor, President of the League said, "I am so glad they are listening to the citizens of Concord and that we are having this public dialogue before any rate increases are implemented."
Additional information on the Light Plant's Strategic Plan and the Light Board's agendas and minutes are available at: http://www.concordma.gov/1106/Municipal-Light-Board.