Saturday, March 29, 2014

Residents, businesses could get discount in Chelmsford energy pact

<Discountp>By Grant Welker,

Updated: 03/29/2014 06:34:17 AM EDT

CHELMSFORD -- The town and thousands of its residents and businesses could join together in a contract to buy energy at a discounted rate using a greater purchasing power.

Known as an energy-aggregation contract, the program could save the town, including participating residents and businesses, about $480,000 a year, according to Bay State Consultants, a group that presented details of the program to the Board of Selectmen last month.

"It's really just a group purchase," said John Shortsleeve, the president of the consulting group.

The town's Energy Conservation Committee is expected to make a presentation about the program at Town Meeting, which begins April 28. Town Meeting will be asked to vote to begin the process toward adopting the program, a period of time that has taken a few years in prior cases.

Residents or businesses would be able to opt in or out at any time, Shortsleeve said. If residents approve the program, the town would seek energy agreements on behalf of everyone who agrees to be part of the contract.

A larger number of participants in Chelmsford wouldn't necessarily save the town more money, Shortsleeve said. Savings are affected more by what's known as the town's "load profile," he said -- when energy use peaks in homes and businesses, which often takes place at different times of day.

"It's not a question of bigger is better," Shortsleeve said.

Estimated savings for the town and its participants is about $480,000 a year, according to Bay State Consultants.

Another consultant, Leo Sullivan of Global Partners, said the target rate for participation is about 87 percent of homes and 60 percent of small businesses. Larger commercial properties are less likely to join, he said.

About 80 towns in Massachusetts already participate in such a program or are in the process, Sullivan said. He said Massachusetts is one of five states that allows for energy aggregation agreements.

Chelmsford has already signed on to other programs meant to save on energy costs.

A statewide program that offers solar-power credits along with other state and federal tax breaks and reimbursements includes 42 homes in Chelmsford and 54 in Carlisle. The two communities teamed up last fall to achieve the highest level of subsidies possible under the program.

Chelmsford also began an $18 million energy-efficiency program last fall for municipal and school buildings. Each school is being outfitted with rooftop solar panels, along with more efficient equipment, and efficient LED lighting is being installed in all street lights.

Selectmen Chairman Matt Hanson said at the Feb. 24 Board of Selectmen meeting that he hoped homes and commercial buildings could also be run off clean energy.

"It would be quite an accomplishment if all of our residents and businesses could as well," Hanson said, "and save money at the same time."

Follow Grant Welker on Twitter and Tout @SunGrantWelker.

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