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Newton’s green energy plan comes with a cost

Newton’s Chief Financial Officer Maureen Lemieux said Wednesdeay that the city will be paying slightly more to procure green energy for its city buildings and streetlights than it would be if it was purchasing energy made from “brown energy,” or energy derived from burning fossil fuels.

But Lemieux said the city will still be saving $300,000 over the length of its three-year contract.

Mayor Setti Warren’s administration publicly announced Tuesday afternoon that the city had signed a contract with a Houston-based energy supplier Reliant, to procure 100 percent renewable energy for its municipal and school department buildings and streetlights. Part of that announcement is that the city would save money over what it is currently paying on its energy bills.

Lemieux said Wednesday what amazed city officials was how little the price difference was for 100 percent renewable energy compared to energy generated from nonrenewable sources such as fossil fuels.

“We are going to save about $100,000 a year for three years,” Lemieux said. “If we had bought brown energy, we would be saving about $150,000 a year for three years. We were amazed at how closely priced they were and very excited.”

Lemieux said the city spends about $3 million a year on electricity for its buildings and streetlights and about half of that cost, or $1.5 million, is for generating electricity.

“It was affordable,” she said.

The city’s new electricity contract, which kicks in on July 1, 2012, is for 70 million kilowatt hours over the next three years at a locked in rate of $0.06626 per kilowatt for the municipal and school department buildings and $0.05101 for the streetlights.

Newton’s energy will come from 100 percent wind power, Lemieux said.

Patricia Hammond, a spokeswoman for Reliant, told the Newton TAB that Reliant will buy energy for Newton on the wholesale market through the purchase of renewable energy credits, or REC.

Renewable energy credits (REC) are created when electricity is purchased using sources such as wind, solar, biomass or hydropower. When an organization purchases Renewable Energy Credits, they ensure that an amount of electricity equal to that is consumed is generated from renewable sources.