By Ed Mahon
Proposal to increase use of alternative energy is deemed too expensive by officials.
MARPLE TWP. – Despite the upcoming “ENERGY STAR Change a Light Day” on Oct. 4, the outlook for cleaner, renewable energy in Marple looks a little dim.
A resolution promising that by 2010 the township would purchase 20 percent of its electricity from higher-priced sources – such as wind, solar and farm methane -was defeated by a vote of 4-3 Monday.
The township is already committed to buying 5 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources. However, while using 5 percent saves around $3,700 a year, increasing to 20 percent would raise their current budget by $26,000, said Edward O’Lone, director of finance.
For Commissioner President Daniel Leefson (R-7), money was the issue.
“I say it a hundred times. I do it personally, and there’s other commissioners on the board who do it personally,” he said. “But to vote for everybody in the township to do it, to pay more for something, doesn’t sit well.”
But the dissenters, commissioners John Butler (D-2), John Longacre (R-5) and Charles Sammartino (D-6), thought the cost was worth the benefits.
“Of course we all want to save money. That’s our job,” said Sammartino. “But I think in this day and age, the current situation in the world, isn’t the focus on reduction of dependency on foreign oil? Or anything that contributes to that? And if we can lead the way, and send a message, maybe other communities do join along.”
If Marple did join along, SmartPower, a marketing organization advocating renewable energy, would give the township a solar panel that usually costs around $10,000 and saves about $200 or $300 a year, according to SmartPower spokesperson, Molly Tsongas who spoke to the board.
In exchange, seven percent of Marple residents, around 200 people, would have to buy energy from one of SmartPower’s three providers.
SmartPower has worked with 28 communities to pass similar resolutions. A few weeks ago, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell announced that the state would make a similar promise to SmartPower, which is also looking for 10 municipalies in Delaware, Bucks, Chester and Philadelphia counties to partner with them.
Despite Monday’s vote, a few bright spots remain for dissenters.
SmartPower is still hoping to convince the board, which already has a history with energy efficiency. All of the township’s 30-plus traffic lights use LED (light-emitting diode), a more efficient and longer lasting light bulb.
At the end of the meeting, Sammartino suggested reconsidering the proposal next month.
Longacre explained they could at least try the program for one year, without going over their budget saying, “We can always, by resolution, pull the plug on the program, if it’s not working.”
And then there’s the “ENERGY STAR, Change a Light Day,” which was approved by the board by a vote of 6-1 with Commissioner Jeannine Conner (R-3) dissenting.
Butler’s goal is for 100 people to sign a pledge on the township’s Web site, promising to change at least one light from an incandescent bulb to a fluorescent one. As of the meeting, around 50 people had signed up.
“Hopefully, the rest of the commissioners will sign up by tomorrow. Because I think only two have done so far,” Butler said.
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