Wellesley's renewable energy program aims for 10 percent participation by year's end
July 7, 2011
By Derek McLean, Town Correspondent
Wellesley’s renewable energy program, headed by the Municipal Light Plant, has ambitions of getting 10 percent of the town’s electric customers to participate by the end of the year, after seeing a steady growth since its 2009 inception.
Wellesley has 6.5 percent of its customers currently participating. While the goal is admittedly a long shot, Richard Joyce, director of the Wellesley Municipal Light Plant, says the goal is possible.
“It’s only 363 more participants,” he said. “But it’s a long shot to be honest. We may only get up around 8 percent.”
The renewable energy program was implemented at town meeting in the fall of 2009. It allows Wellesley residents and businesses to purchase a portion of their electricity each month from renewable sources. The program offers various options to purchase 10, 25, 50, or 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources.
The cost of each program is dependent on how much energy a household or business uses. According to Joyce, in Wellesley the average customer uses about 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month. It is two cents per kilowatt-hours per month more for renewable energy. If the consumer purchases 50 percent renewable energy at the average rate, he or she would pay an additional $10 per month.
While participants need to pay extra to use renewable energy, Joyce said it is beneficial to our country and planet.
“You do it so you don’t deplete this country’s natural resources and natural gas, reserves, or anything else,” he said. “We are getting it from a landfill, a hydro, and from wind. We are reducing this county’s dependence on foreign exports because we are not using any and we are reducing the greenhouse gasses we contribute.”
Joyce said the program has already been effective, “What we’ve done is the equivalent of taking 298 automobiles off the road,” he said. “The town has saved 2.6 million kilowatt-hours of electricity by people switching to renewable energy.”
The program has increased the number of participants steadily since its inception. In 2009 the program had 257 participants at year end and 637 in 2010. So far this year there have been 26 new participants.
The town of Wellesley will not be making money from the program. “We buy the energy on the market and give it to you at the cost we pay for it,” said Joyce.
Wellesley currently receives renewable energy from two sources, a Massachusetts based landfill, and a hydro in Maine. The two generate 7 million kilowatt-hours per year for the town. Also, starting this fall, Wellesley will receive renewable wind energy from Spruce Mountain in Maine.
“We have got all of the renewable sources covered,” said Joyce.
“The selectmen are behind the Municipal Light Plant’s effort to create a greater amount of renewable sources as part of their overall energy portfolio,” said Christopher Ketchen, Wellesley Deputy Director.
At the 2009 annual Town Meeting, Wellesley mandated the reduction of its carbon footprint with a 10 percent reduction of equivalent CO2 emissions town wide and 20 percent for municipal buildings by 2013. “Getting energy from renewable sources is one tool in our tool box as far as meeting that goal,” said Ketchen. “The Selectmen are enthusiastically behind any program that will facilitate that.”
In 2010 the Municipal Light Plant advertised the program through a mailing campaign. While the campaign was costly, $5,000 total, it proved beneficial, helping to nearly double the number of participants. Joyce has not ruled out implementing the mailing campaign again in the future.
“The question is, ‘have we informed everyone in Wellesley that this exists?’” he asked. “In the last month we have had a major push on, as far as getting word out there.”
Joyce said he expects the renewable energy program will continue to grow, “We’ve had success. We are hoping that the old saying that success brings success comes true,” he said. “People will see how successful we are and that will encourage others to participate.”
Derek McLean can be reached at email@example.com.