Letter From GELD: We Are & Remain A Clean Energy Leader
To the Editor,
The March 15 edition of the Groton Herald had a Letter to the Editor encouraging GELD to become a “Clean Energy Leader”. If anybody in town had any doubts about this, I am proudly informing you that GELD is and has been a clean energy leader.
It is very important to define terms before you can talk about them in an intellectually honest manner. GELD is a municipal light department which operates under Chapter 164 of Massachusetts General Law.
When deregulation of the electric industry affected New England in the late 1990s, the government created a new set of rules. The investor-owned utilities (IOUs) such as Until and National Grid were required to sell all their generating and transmission assets and became utilities that only distributed electricity.
Since the IOUs no longer owned the sources of their generation, the government created a set of rules for how the IOUs would purchase that electricity and created a set of steadily increasing clean energy mandates. One of the things created were the renewable portfolio standards which are referred to as RPS.
When the IOUs go to market to acquire the generation necessary for their customers, they are required to purchase a percentage of what the government regulations define as renewable. This has created a paper market for the renewable energy certificates that go along with the creation and production of “renewable energy”.
Hence, when someone talks about some of our neighbors having electricity that was 18 percent “clean” in 2018; it was because the IOUs were required to purchase certificates that stated their power was 18 percent clean. The electricity didn’t necessarily come from “clean” sources, but the certificates did.
Unlike IOUs, Municipal Light Departments were never required to divest of the generation assets they owned, and still operate under a set of rules where they own or contract directly with generation assets for the power that is delivered to their substations and provided to you.
GELD was one of 14 Municipal Light Departments that formed the Berkshire Wind Power Co-operative to build what was the largest wind farm in New England at the time. As part owner of the Co-Op, we fought a long hard battle to get the permits and rights to build that wind farm. At one point, an adjacent land-owner successfully won a restraining order in court that delayed the project for more than a year, driving up the total cost of the project to more than $66 Million. As a Clean Energy Leader, we persevered until we successfully saw this project to completion.
Since 2011 our share of the Berkshire Wind project has provided almost four percent of GELD’s generated electricity. According to the writer of last week’s article, this wind farm does not provide electricity to Groton or the other investing Municipal Light Departments that the writer qualifies as clean.
As a clean energy leader, one of the principles we follow when acquiring GELD’s portfolio is diversification, so as soon as Berkshire Wind was nearing completion, GELD went to work on our next clean energy project; this time a solar project.
Our first attempt for solar power was defeated in the permitting stage because of evidence that turtles had nested on GELD-owned land. After four years of working towards a solar project, we successfully completed the challenges and the permitting process to cover the town of Groton’s landfill with solar panels, owned by a third party, with GELD receiving 100 percent of the produced energy
One of the things that the policy makers have used to incentivize solar farms is the Investment Tax Credit. GELD is a non-profit entity; since we don’t pay federal taxes, the cost effective manner is to have an outside party that can use the tax credits build the solar farm.
We did that and since 2016, the Town of Groton has been receiving about five percent of its generation portfolio from the Groton solar farm. According to the writer of last week’s article, this solar farm does not provide electricity that they qualify as clean energy.
As a clean energy leader, GELD was also working on acquiring power from a second wind project while the solar farm was making its way through the permitting process. In 2015, we completed the work necessary to receive another two percent of our power from the Hancock Wind project in Maine. Once again, the writer of last week’s article would say that this wind project does not provide clean power to Groton.
GELD receives about 6.5 percent of its power from the hydroelectric facility at Niagara Falls. You may not be surprised at this point, but according to the writer of last week’s article, the electricity we receive from that hydroelectric facility does not qualify as clean power.
GELD has put significant effort into securing affordable power from non-carbon emitting sources. GELD has ownership interests in more than 20 percent of its diversified portfolio from multiple nuclear projects in New England. Valuing non-carbon emitting sources of power, GELD has also acquired an additional 11 percent of non-carbon emitting nuclear power under contractual obligation.
I am sure you aren’t surprised, but the writer of last week’s article does not value this non carbon emitting electricity. GELD also purchases power directly from the market. The New England market as a whole is 49 percent non-carbon emitting. When you add our ownership and contractual obligations together with our market purchases, GELD’s power portfolio is 69% percent non-carbon emitting.
As a clean energy leader, GELD is currently working with one of its large customers to help facilitate large-scale battery storage coming to Groton. GELD’s Board has also given GELD management direction to pursue large scale battery storage for GELD as soon as the break-even on that investment comes down to seven years.
GELD has been and remains a clean energy leader. Now that you have some information about our portfolio, you will be able to answer questions if you have a discussion with someone who claims GELD has 0% renewable energy.
I am proud of the fact that about 25 percent of our generation portfolio comes from renewable sources and is 69 percent non-carbon emitting. As a clean energy leader, I intend to lead GELD over the 70 percent non-carbon emitting number in the near future. Last week’s letter appears to fall into the category ‘Figures don’t lie, but people with agendas often do’.
Kevin P. Kelly