BREWSTER – After two and a half years of service Chris Powicki is out as a member of the Brewster Energy Committee.
Powicki, who runs Water Energy & Ecology Information Services, has been critical of Cape Light Compact, regarding its collection of monthly surcharges from ratepayers, the use of such funds, their electricity purchases and underwriting of the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative. Brewster has negotiated their solar arrays through CVEC.
“He was not recommended for reappointment,” appointment chairman and Selectman Pat Hughes said at the selectman’s meeting Monday. “It is difficult for the public to separate Chris Powicki as an advocate and Chris Powicki as a member of the energy committee and many of the documents he’s provided can be taken as personal attacks on people we work with and I feel that in many ways he is a lightening rod for many issues. Some of the charges he’s made are to the detriment of the town.”
Deane Keuch, Brewster’s representative on Cape Light Compact, has been named to the committee in Powicki’s stead.
Mitch Relin, president of Brewster Citizens for Responsible Energy, believes Powicki belongs on the committee. BCRE was integral in fighting the proposal (by CVEC) to build two wind turbines in town and he’s also been critical of both CLC and CVEC in their lack of transparency and financial linkages.
“Thank you for that explanation. I appreciate that,” he told Hughes. “I think it is a mistake. For the last three years I’ve been going to a number of meetings, including the selectmen’s, and I’ve been to probably 20 of the energy committee. The role of the energy committee is extremely important. I deference the other people on the committee, Chris is often the smartest guy in the room and the most knowledgeable on energy issues and many times the other members defer to his knowledge.”
On June 19, Powicki submitted a presentation to the Barnstable Assembly of Delegates that was highly critical of CLC, which collects a surcharge of one tenth of one cent on all consumer electric bills.
The “CLC can impose mill-charges in any amount at the whim of a single individual,” he said in the presentation, he said the charge was “improperly imposed upon ratepayers and applied to do unauthorized things.”
In addition the CLC officials have “conspired to pursue narrow political aims while keeping state, county and town officials in the dark and throwing rate payers under the bus,” Powicki said in the presentation.
He also submitted the documents to Brewster for inclusion in the selectmen’s FYI items but they arrived too late for this week.
“There are statements in there, about hard working public servants, that seem to be libelous,” BOS chairman John Dickson told him at the beginning of Monday’s meeting. “I suggest when you submit it you not make those assertions.”
“I think it’s important to understand what’s going on with CLC and CVEC. I do make that effort,” Powicki replied. “I think when you see a wrong you say something.”
One of CLC’s functions is to act as an aggregate buyer of electricity, in order to provide Cape consumers, who purchase electricity from CLC, with the best rates.
Powicki noted that the Cape Light Compact increased its residential rates as of July 1, to 8.129 cents per kilowatt hour, up from 7.672 cents, through January 2014. NStar is charging 7.506 cents per kwh.
“NStar is actually greener and cheaper,” he said.
Powicki contends the Compact has cost Cape customers over $30 million during the last 10 years. CLC puts the figure at $28.9 million but says they’ve saved consumers $142 million through consumer advocacy. They’ve also saved $130 million through their energy efficiency services, which actually make up close to 90-percent of their expenditures.
Brewster, and the other Cape towns have representatives of the CLC board and Powicki asked the selectmen to exercise more oversight.
“The board (of selectmen) is accountable to businesses, residents, renters, everyone that has an electric bill, you represent,” he told them. “The board has a responsibility to consumers to make sure the Cape Light Compact is as open with information disclosure as possible.”
In regard to that he’s filed a petition with the state Department of Public Utilities to have a hearing on the increased rates in Brewster.
“All it takes is 20 signatures so I think it will go forward,” Powicki said.
“Yes, he is a critic of the Cape Light Compact and CVEC and he has shared these concerns. But it’s all based on advocacy for ratepayers and for the town,” Relin said later in the meeting. “He is not a single voice. The issues got to the point the Assembly of Delegates impaneled a committee of inquiry.”
They wound up requesting a forensic audit.
“I think it’s a mistake for Chris not to be in a critical role,” Relin asserted.
In March CLC sent Powicki a “cease and desist” letter and another just last week dealing with the recent presentation.
“Sometimes when you advocate a position and are so confrontational you do your side no favors,” Dickson said.
Powicki won’t change his style.
“The board of selectmen does not believe in the right of individuals to speak out,” he said afterwards. “The Cape Light Compact was formed to represent all ratepayers and consumers and over time the interest of individual ratepayers were subordinated to political aims in relation to CVEC. It should be restructured.”