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Marblehead Municipal Light Board Meeting - 5/30/23 - OBSERVER REPORT


Meeting Recorded by Video 

LWVM Observer: Maggie Smist


Members in Attendance: 

Jean Jacques Yarmoff, Michael Hull (Chair), Simon Frechette, Adam Smith, Lisa Wolf

Joe Kowalik : General Manager


Guests:   MMWEC - Justin Connell – Director of Energy Markets, Zoe Eckhart – Sustainable Energy Products Rep.


Meeting called to order at 4:01 pm.

1. Approve minutes of May 4th.   Minutes approved.

2. Public Comments.   

A question was asked about posting the agenda earlier – Joe said he aims for one week before.   A follow up question was asked about time of 4 pm for meeting and the difficulty of that time for the public to attend.  MMLD board commented that time is planned around the best time for members of the board.   A follow up question was asked about if minutes are posted, and Joe stated they are on the website. A final question was asked about a green space near the attendee’s home – the board discussed adding this to a future agenda.


3. Power portfolio update.

This update was not a voting item today – Joe asked for discussion about approach from this topic from the MMLD Board.

Lisa and Joe created a graph showing data from a Green Marblehead report.   It represents the Marblehead ‘big picture’ showing total energy used over the past decade, and that Marblehead demand for electricity has been remaining flat.  Based on climate concerns and state requirements around electrification, the MMLD and ISO New England are now forecasting growth for Marblehead over the next ten years.

The graph is also projecting target minimum state goals for green energy over the next 20-30 years and the graph is showing whether Marblehead will meet its goals.   In 2040, we don’t have a clear plan on how will meet required state green energy goals.  There was a discussion of how MMLD must include off-shore wind into our portfolio to help us meet goals.

Green Marblehead goals are also reflected on the graph and is pushing up the state targets of 2050 to ten years earlier. Graph shows nuclear, hydro, carbon free and wind energy levels.  Solar is not reflected on this graph but it should be considered as we set goals. This graph will continue to be presented to the public.

Jean Jacques discussed how there will be other sources or there are other sources that exist to give us good, cheap long-term contracts.    He stated the importance of being aggressive about pursuing these contracts.  Jean Jacques thanked the Green Marblehead team for their work, and he asked for 5-year goals, aimimg for something reachable.

Discussion followed regarding other municipalities and how their portfolios are made up of carbon free and how it compares to Marblehead.

Motion was put for forth for a more aggressive target based on Jean Jacques request - Goal of reaching 70% carbon free within 5 years and 85% carbon free within 10 years.   Discussion ensued.   Graphs of current portfolio and proposed projects were highlighted.  Cost per kilowatt hour was discussed.  Graph of proposed projects vs school solar was presented and discussed.  Joe is meeting with EMWIC to discuss the school solar numbers to resolve questions.  Discussion of grants to help put roofs on schools since MMLD will be responsible for roofs if panels put on.  Joe mentioned policy decisions that need to be made by state over the next years regarding wind and solar.   Discussion on difficulty of reaching goals within 5 years – it is aspirational.  

Motion seconded and vote taken:   Vote: all yes with one no

There were general comments from public about the vote taken.  Further discussion and explanation occurred

4. Solar on Schools Discussion

Justin and Zoe reported out on these programs which are eligible for federal tax exemptions. Map was shown of Marblehead of available credits for various school locations in town.

A rooftop solar project financial analysis was presented.  Cost of kilowatt hour for the solar was discussed year over year by comparing the cost and revenue.  The board is reviewing this for the first time, but a decision needs to be made by the MMLD on solar. Lisa asked MMWEC representatives for additional assumptions to be built into the model.

There will be a meeting this Thursday and MMLD attorney will be there for further discussion on power options based on the graph and its assumptions.  The committee will continue to work with the graph and explore options.   

5. Coastal Zone Management (CZM) grant update.

Tomorrow is important deadline for application to MA EPA for a MA EPA permit to do this work.  Joe stated it is a significant document and he presented a few slides to explain the work that will need to happen (ie: docks replaced, seawalls re-done or moved, etc.).  It will become a significant dredging project and at the same time, public access is to be expanded.

No decision needs to be made by the board – the application will be submitted although Joe did ask the board to review a letter which was sent with the grant.   Joe will begin going out for bids on this project.

6. 80 Commercial St. fence update. 

Bid came in that seemed high – plan is to resubmit it in a smaller scope after consultation with the town attorney.  Jean Jacque had asked for tighter parameters which would also lower cost.

7. GM updates

- There will be a PPA rate reduction in June

- Bessom Street entry to Village 13 – Mike met with property owner and abutter easement has been ok’d.

- Utility battery site location – Vine St/Rec and Park is not an option.  Mike and Joe went to site and specified footprint but Rec and Park said it would not work.  Locations on 23 Tioga Way were visited and Joe encouraged MMLD members to visit the site.  Public comments asked about this process:  question asked when neighbors will be notified of possible construction since she did not want any backlash.  Mike explained a solution is a public forum for abutters after the engineer has been on the site.  

-Union Contract update 2023-2026 – negotiations are complete and contracts are signed.  One outstanding item is cost of benefits which town needs to provide.

- APPA certificate of excellence in reliability was received.

Next meeting on Tuesday, June 27th