2019 Board of Public Works Candidate Response

It is the mission of the Board of Public Works, acting through the Director and Managers of the Department of Public Works, to provide the following services to the Town in a cost effective, accountable, responsive, safe and efficient manner, according to generally accepted municipal standards and with a dedication to excellence.

1.What is your track record on environmental sustainability, including any related interests, experience, or initiatives?

Ellen Korpi

As an appointed member of the Town’s Sustainable Energy Committee for nearly 9 years (4 years Chair, 2 years Vice Chair), I have initiated, coordinated and/or played a key role in many successful, award-winning initiatives including:

  • Power to Choose campaign (2012). Worked with the MLP and coordinated a group of volunteers to achieve the 3rd highest customer participation percentage in the US that voluntarily pay a premium for renewable energy
  • Food Rescue program (2017/18). Initiated this program and coordinated outreach to our public schools, 4 local colleges and the food rescue organization Food for Free. An estimated 20,000 meals/year that were being trashed are now collected and served to food insecure people, including at Mass Bay Community College in Wellesley
  • Residential Solar campaign (2014). Spearheaded this program with the MLP and a group of volunteers resulting in more than 70 new residential solar installations
  • Food Waste Diversion program (2017/18). Initiated this program through the 3R Working Group (SEC, NRC and DPW). Residents have already dropped off 70 tons of food waste at the RDF which has been converted into the renewable energy source of biogas. The program began as a pilot and is now permanent and still growing.

Sustainable Wellesley and Green Schools have been crucial partners in most of my activities.

An important part of my personal agenda has been to enhance communication and collaboration. To that end, I initiated the formation of the 3R (Reduce Reuse Recycle) Working Group with the DPW, Natural Resources Commission and SEC. I also initiated the formation of Wellesley’s Green Collaborative and continue to coordinate it. More than 30 town entities, environmental and land conservation groups, civic organizations, houses of worship and garden clubs participate in the Green Collaborative to exchange information and seek mutual interests

2. How do you see sustainability as a factor in the development of policy and strategic goals for the Board of Public Works, given the board’s oversight authority over both the Department of Public Works and the Municipal Light Plant?

Ellen Korpi

The Board of Public Works oversees many areas that impact sustainability such as recycling/waste management, safe drinking water and design and management of streets and byways. Through on-going dialogue, they are injecting more sustainability thinking into their work, such as seeking energy efficiency upgrades to pumping stations.

The Municipal Light Plant is our Town’s electric utility. The MLP excels in providing reliability, safety and low rates to its customers. The MLP has shown leadership and vision in its long history of energy conservation and efficiency initiatives (including home energy audits and the streetlight LED retrofit) and in supporting renewable energy by signing long-term purchase contracts with a number of wind farms, enabling developers to get financing and increase renewable energy capacity in New England.

The greenest kilowatt is the one we don’t use. Supporting energy efficiency programs should continue to be a high priority for the MLP.

Electrification is one of the most important transformations taking place in the energy economy to address climate change and promote sustainability. This trend towards electrification is most visible in vehicles but is also occurring in the world of construction where air source heat pumps and geothermal systems are now often viable commercial alternatives to fossil fuel use.

Electrification opens the door to cleaner energy use as more and more of our power comes from renewable sources. Furthermore, the combination of evolving technology and more competitive pricing is providing opportunities to better utilize the power that we have. The MLP Board will be determining the optimum time to adopt various technologies such as smart metering that will assist demand side management through such tools as “time of use billing” and “demand/response” programs.

On the supply side, the MLP already plans a solar farm on the roof at 900 Worcester Street. There will be many potential opportunities for the MLP to support new, local generation of renewable energy, for example at the 2 new schools and new Town Hall annex projects that are in the planning stages. Many factors will influence the timing and priorities of adopting these new programs and I look forward to participating in the determination of what makes sense and when.

3. What are your views on having the town adopt a goal of obtaining 100% of Wellesley’s electricity from clean, renewable sources by 2050 (or even 2030)?

Ellen Korpi

Aspirational goals, especially those that can be measured, are great tools for progress. At the same time, it is important for aspirations to be pegged to what is a realistic possibility. Also tactically, we want to build consensus and try to avoid backlash that will impede our progress.

As already demonstrated through my personal track record of many successful sustainability programs, my goal for the future is to work as hard as possible to enact practical solutions that get us to 100% clean energy as fast as is realistic.

I support 100% clean energy, but I also care about the pathway we take in reaching this goal and do not view every path as equally productive. Towns that are adopting 100% Renewable Energy programs before that much renewable energy is available on our grid, are doing this by purchasing existing Renewable Energy Credits (“RECs”). I am opposed to simply purchasing RECs because I believe the money spent on RECs simply transfer renewable energy “bragging rights” from one entity to another for a short period. While more demand for RECs would indirectly influence renewable capacity development in later years, direct investment in renewable energy such as solar, especially if new capacity can be installed locally, will immediately increase New England renewable energy generation capacity. It will also reduce emissions immediately and save money every year during the life of the equipment.

Besides direct investment in renewable energy generation capacity, I hope to see the MLP seek ways to support low “Energy Use Intensity” in new construction and develop ways to encourage electrification of vehicles and HVAC equipment.

Given that our electricity rates are so low relative to the rest of MA, I think the MLP should consider increasing the annual investment in sustainability programs. A small incremental burden on customers could finance additional programs with long-term financial and environmental benefits. (Programs can pair higher rates to relief for those on the bottom of the economic scale.)

My sustainability advocacy has taught me that some of the best ideas that seem simple to implement can be fraught with complicated barriers. The best strategy for accelerating progress towards our common goal, is to incorporate these complexities into our thinking as we seek productive ways to build consensus for moving forward.

 

All 2019 Candidate Responses