An Open Letter to Wellesley Municipal Light Plant’s Board and the Selectmen

 
This spring, amid growing concern about the federal government’s withdrawal from Paris Climate Agreement, many Wellesley residents have been searching for ways to ensure that our town’s energy policies reflect the priorities and values of our community in combatting climate change. 

In April, a group of 50 residents sent a letter to the Board of the Municipal Light Plant expressing concern over the board’s policy on renewable energy and whether it adequately supports our state renewable energy goals under the state Global Warming Solutions Act. The MLP board held a public meeting on energy policy in late May, and on June 26, the leadership team of Sustainable Wellesley presented a petition to the MLP board and the Board of Selectmen signed by more than 200 Wellesley residents.


Our July 12 letter to the MLP board — included below — is the latest in this on-going dialogue about renewable energy policy in our town. Sustainable Wellesley invites interested residents to share their views with us at info@sustainablewellesley.com.

 

July 12, 2017

To the Board of the Wellesley Municipal Light Plant:

 

We are writing to follow-up with you on the recent public discussions concerning your renewable energy policy and the Sustainable Wellesley petition submitted to you on June 26, 2017, signed by 205 Wellesley residents. The signers of the petition requested that you support the Paris Climate Agreement, despite the recent withdrawal by the federal government, and take specific local actions to reflect the priorities and values of our community. We asked that you commit to a goal of 100 percent renewable energy, and to meeting or exceeding state clean energy standards under the authority of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection in support of the goals outlined by the state Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA).

 

As you know, Wellesley Town Meeting adopted a goal in 2014 to reduce Town-wide carbon emissions 25 percent below 2007 levels by 2020. Approximately one-quarter of the Town’s carbon emissions result from the electricity sector. The Town will be unable to achieve its carbon reduction goal without meaningful changes in the portfolio of the Municipal Light Plant. Given the urgent need for local action to protect our climate, we believe Wellesley should not only meet this goal, but also set a course for 100 percent renewable energy for our town. More than 30 U.S. cities and towns have committed to 100 percent renewable energy goals — and some have already achieved it. The town of Concord, MA, recently set ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and is now on track for 65 percent renewably-sourced electricity by 2018.

 

Concerning our request that the Wellesley Municipal Light Plant accept the authority of the state Department of Environmental Protection, we appreciate that the board has a strong desire to maintain local control of their activities without regulatory oversight by the state. To be responsible to Wellesley residents, this local control needs to respect both the stated goal of Wellesley Town Meeting and the mandated requirements of the GWSA, the landmark climate law of our state. The GWSA requires reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from each sector of the economy summing to a total reduction of 25 percent below the 1990 baseline emission level in 2020 and at least an 80 percent reduction in 2050. Massachusetts will be unable to achieve the carbon reduction goals mandated by the GWSA without the participation of communities served by municipal light plants.

We also wish to underscore that towns with municipal light plants, such as Wellesley, have so far avoided the challenge and higher costs of shifting to clean sources of energy, while ratepayers in towns with investor-owned utilities are required to do so. Wellesley currently enjoys an electricity rate that is roughly 30 percent below that of our neighbors who get their electricity from investor-owned utilities, which are subject to the state clean energy standard.

We therefore call upon you: 

1. To revise the mission statement of the Wellesley Municipal Light Plant to reflect a commitment to renewable energy and energy conservation.

2.  To develop a Wellesley renewable energy standard that meets or exceeds the state requirements. This standard should be quantifiable and should increase annually with a goal of achieving 100 percent renewable energy on a schedule to be determined that works for our Town.

3. To work with the Municipal Electric Association of Massachusetts to develop a system of accountability for the proposed standard.

We appreciate that the development of this policy will require input from Town leadership and from residents with relevant expertise, and therefore, we are sharing this letter with the Wellesley Board of Selectmen and the wider community.

Respectfully yours,

Regina LaRocque
Jessica Stanton
Sustainable Wellesley Leadership Team: Mary Gard, Lise Olney, Quentin Prideaux, Phyllis Theermann

 

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