Mashpee Board of Selectmen voted to withdraw from Cape & Vineyard Electric Cooperative, Inc.—a regional entity created to assist municipalities to produce and obtain renewable energy—after the cooperative board of directors voted to suspend Mashpee’s representative and requested a new member. Mashpee’s appointee, selectman Michael R. Richardson, had not met the attendance policy and had not attended a meeting since 2012, according to a letter written by the cooperative’s president John C. Checklick. Mashpee was given until April to appoint a new representative.
While Mashpee is the first to withdraw from the cooperative, the board of directors has met less than in previous years.
The cooperative, or CVEC, was created by the Cape Light Compact in 2007 to provide towns on the Cape and Vineyard a platform to work together to integrate clean, renewable energy.
The cooperative’s policy is that members must attend at least half of the directors’ meetings annually. Mr. Richardson said he could not offer much to the conversation at the meetings he attended in the past, which were upwards of four hours, because there was little relevance to Mashpee.
Town manager Joyce M. Mason recommended withdrawing from the cooperative because Mashpee has never used its services. The town has pursued renewable energy production on its own, such as the solar array at the town landfill, as well as panels installed on the Mashpee Middle/High School, senior center, library and DPW buildings. She said that approximately 90 percent of power for the municipality’s energy use comes from solar power. This 90 percent does not include power for residents, but the electric cooperative’s aims are to assist municipalities rather than individual residents.
Mr. Richardson and selectman Andrew R. Gottlieb voted against withdrawing from the cooperative; the remaining three selectmen voted to pull out.
Mr. Gottlieb said that he did not understand the implications of withdrawing from the cooperative well enough to vote yes. He said that he was concerned the board’s vote could affect the energy company’s operations.
Ms. Mason said that Mashpee is not the only town that has discussed withdrawing. She said the board of directors has had difficulty meeting quorums in recent years.
Mr. Checklick said he was not pleased with Mashpee’s decision but that he understood.
“We’re certainly disappointed that Mashpee decided to withdraw,” the president of CVEC said. “We value every member in the cooperative and it’s hard to see them go.” At the same time, he said that he understood that some towns have the resources to pursue renewable energy on their own, although, not all do.
He said that Mashpee, as far as he was aware, was the first town to withdraw. The board is represented by 20 members. Mr. Checklick said that representatives of Dennis and Sandwich were also suspended for failing to attend the required amount of meetings. The Dennis Board of Selectmen decided to appoint a new representative and Sandwich has not responded to a letter sent to them, similar to the one sent to Mashpee. “I’m not aware of what they are thinking right now,” he said about Sandwich. As to other towns considering withdrawing, he said that he was not aware of any intentions to do so.
CVEC was created so that towns on the Cape and Martha’s Vineyard could share their resources with one another.
Mashpee, said Stephen Wollenburg senior power planner of the Cape Light Compact, is lucky enough to have the resources to pursue its own projects. “Some towns just wouldn’t be able to do that without CVEC,” he said.
Towns like Provincetown do not have the open space for solar panels. Some towns like Barnstable have enough resources for their own power and then some. CVEC allows towns to partner with neighboring communities. The providers can then make money through electricity credits and towns can purchase renewable energy.
“There were limitations on how much capacity each town could do on its own,” Mr. Wollenburg said. “Essentially we opened up legislation so that towns could transfer electricity to other towns and take advantage of that space.”
Asked if Mashpee might be losing out on this opportunity to sell credits to other municipalities through CVEC, Mr. Wollenburg said that it is a hypothetical question he could not answer. He said, however, that nearly all power provided to municipalities that are involved in CVEC are provided by solar and other renewable sources.
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Mr. Wollenburg said. “It’s great environmentally, but it also means savings for the towns as well as stability.”
He said that CVEC can continue to offer a lot to the region. Even with most of municipal power provided through renewable energy and CVEC seemingly having reached its goal, he said that the organization has a lot of experience procuring solar power sources, negotiating contracts and managing the flow of metering credits and can offer its services to nonprofits and other non-municipality entities.
As for CVEC board of directors having difficulty meeting quorums, Mr. Checklick said that it happens from time to time. Sometimes, if a quorum is not met by the board of directors, an executive meeting will be called instead. According to the minutes posted on the cooperative’s website, the board of directors met five times in 2014, six times in 2013, 13 times in 2012 and more than 10 times each year from 2008 to 2012. The board of directors has so far met once this year, in January.