Of all the towns that would be candidates for going “green,” Greenwich isn’t ready to adopt a townwide renewable energy program.
Officials balked this week at joining a growing list of municipalities in the state that have pledged to offset at least 20 percent of their electric consumption with renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, by 2010.
Already endorsed by the town’s Conservation Commission, the program is being pushed by SmartPower, a nonprofit alternative energy marketing group with offices in Hartford.
Residents would also be encouraged to change their energy consumption habits under the program, with the town receiving a solar power unit for every 100 households that sign up for the program. The units could be installed on schools and other public buildings.
The cost of making the switch is a major question mark for some town officials, however.
“We’re never going to vote for programs like this unless we know what the economic impact is,” First Selectman Jim Lash told the program’s advocates Wednesday during the Board of Selectmen’s monthly meeting at Town Hall.
ÃŠKeri Enright, the state program director for SmartPower, told the board that the cost to the town itself would be nominal. Expenses would range from $23,663 to $52,058 for the town to buy the renewable energy it needs for the year 2010, according to the group’s estimates. The additional cost to homeowners who sign up for the program would add less than 5 percent a month to their electric bill, she said.
“Economically, it’s viable,” said Enright, who touted the environmental benefits of the program to the selectmen.
In the first year of the program, the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in town would be equivalent to conserving at least 30,194 gallons of gasoline or planting 221 acres of forest, according to the group.
“So this would really have a significant impact on our emissions,” Enright said, noting that 48 other municipalities have already signed up for the program.
The town would not be entering into a legal agreement and would not be penalized for failing to meet the goal if it joined the program, according to Enright, who said the group was simply looking for a good faith effort.
“This is really a partnership between the municipality and its residents,” Enright said.
The town would also not be limited to purchasing renewable energy that is produced in the state. It could buy renewable energy certificates for power produced elsewhere.
But Lash questioned the logic of allowing municipalities to buy those certificates, saying it defeated the purpose of the program and shifted the responsibility to other states.
“If every state took the attitude, ‘Oh we’ll buy these certificates from other states,’ nothing would get done,” Lash said.
The program’s supporters said Connecticut does not have the capacity to produce enough renewable energy to meet the demand.
The Board of Selectmen will revisit the proposal next month.
By Neil Vigdor
11 May 2007
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