Letter to the editor: regarding the goals of the Wellesley Municipal Light Plant

To the Editor,

This letter is in response to the components of a recent letter to the editor that addressed the governance and policies of the Wellesley Municipal Light Plant (WMLP). In that letter, the author stated that “Our Municipal Light Plant has been taken over by special interest groups” who are not operating in the best economic interest of the Town. Obviously, we completely disagree.

The WMLP is owned by the Town of Wellesley. Management reports to a Board consisting of the three members of the Board of Public Works who are selected in the Town elections, and two members who are appointed by the Select Board. By statute the Board has a fiduciary responsibility to operate the business for the benefit of the rate payers.

The WMLP is guided by its core principles and mission statement to provide safe, reliable, economic electric power in a sustainable and environmentally supportive manner. We believe that the environmentally beneficial programs that we pursue are not only beneficial to the world’s ecosystem, they are, flat out, good business. The balance of this letter will address some of those programs.

Beneficial Electrification – It is a prudent business strategy for our WMLP to seek to grow its revenue by capturing energy dollars that were previously paid to large, non-local energy companies. It is also a prudent environmental strategy to replace the direct burning of fossil fuel with WMLP’s 50% emission-free power that will continue getting cleaner over time. To effectively attract this additional revenue, there is an incentive to maintain low rates.

The Real Cost of Fossil Fuel – The upfront cost of fossil fuels does not embed the enormous cost of the climate catastrophes they are already causing. It is penny-wise and pound-foolish to consider this a bargain.

Net Zero Ready Buildings – The key for being “net zero ready” is a very tight building envelope that significantly lowers energy use and thus operating costs and emissions. It is also important for ensuring the building’s resilience during dramatic weather conditions. There is a sometimes a small up-front premium for this but it is a prudent business decision with long-term benefits.

WECARE – The WMLP created the WECARE program in response to a Citizen’s Petition (upon which the WMLP did not take a position) recommending an “opt out” voluntary program. It was approved by a large majority at Town Meeting. Any rate payer can opt out and not participate. These funds are designated to accelerate Wellesley emission reductions. For example, WECARE money will subsidize the cost of the Power Purchase Agreement for the solar farm on the roof of the Sports Center on Route 9 and most likely the solar installation at Hunnewell School. In both cases, the rate payers will contribute the equivalent of the average cost of power purchases, thus not putting pressure on rates. The voluntary WECARE money will fund the premium over this cost.

Redundancy – Redundancy can be achieved when a renewable energy source is paired with battery storage to form a microgrid. The WMLP is negotiating our first battery storage project. The technology and cost of backup storage are dynamically improving every year and will hopefully become widely installed in the coming years.

Solar Panel Recycling – As promised at Town Meeting, the Recycling and Disposal Facility has made an arrangement with a solar panel recycler and will now accept solar panels from residents for recycling.

Our safety and reliability statistics are stellar, and our rates are 25-50% lower than those of surrounding communities served by investor–owned utilities. We can continue to accomplish all of this while pursuing the goals—continually expressed by our constituents—to operate in a sustainable and environmentally beneficial manner.

Ellen Korpi, Chair, on behalf of the Municipal Light Board
Oak Street, Wellesley, MA 02482