AVON CLEAN ENERGY COMMISSION
AVON ROOM BLDG. #1 TOWN HALL
JUNE 18, 2014
I. CALL MEETING TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order at 7:08PM by Chairman Bernard Zahren in the Avon Room, Building 1 Town Hall. Members present: Chairman Bernard Zahren, Mitch Kennedy, Richard Kretz, Lisa Levin, Joseph Gentile and Brian Glenn. Member absent: Marty Kaplan. Advisory member absent: Jonathan Craig. Also in attendance was Assistant Town Manager Steve Bartha. Mr. Gentile was introduced to the group mentioning that he is a dentist in town and has been living in Avon since 1994. He added that he is involved with UNICO charities and is an alternate on the Planning and Zoning Commission in town as well.
II. APPROVAL OF THE PRECEDING MEETING MINUTES – Feb. 19th
VOTE: Ms. Levin motioned, Mr. Glenn seconded and all agreed to accept the February 19th minutes as presented. None opposed.
III. COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE AUDIENCE
IV. OLD BUSINESS: a. Update on Solar RFP process
Mr. Bartha shared the good news that the Public Works solar PV project is going forward. CL & P selected the project for enrollment in the Small ZREC Tariff program. The Town Council has given all of the approvals necessary to authorize Mr. Robertson to execute the PPA for Public Works. Mr. Bartha continued that the BOE has a meeting scheduled for next week for their final review of solar for the two schools. Mr. Zahren questioned the ZREC amount and was it a part of last year’s. Dr. Kennedy clarified that it was last year’s with Mr. Bartha noting the number at $103.00. Mr. Zahren said that it was a good price, but did not apply to all three projects. Mr. Bartha said the projects were stand alone and the success of one had no bearing on the others. Dr. Kennedy asked if the vendor was in the auction for all three projects to which Mr. Bartha said yes. Mr. Bartha added that we’d like to have the PPAs ready for signature before the announcement is made on or around July 17th. He also noted that SolarCity was invited to a Planning & Zoning Commission meeting to determine if the site plan approvals would be approved. He relayed that the Town Planner feels the approvals are straight forward and shouldn’t be held up, but there is always that chance. Mr. Bartha asked Mr. Glenn if the meeting with the BOE, SolarCity and Mr. Michaud would be held next week on Wednesday, June 25th. Mr. Glenn said he believed so.
Ms. Levin questioned the status of the solar project with the schools as she was under the impression that the school proposals were dead. Mr. Zahren referred to an earlier meeting where the BOE questioned if the solar panels could be bought which Mr. Zacchio of the Town Council reminded of the “other” costs such as financing etc. Mr. Glenn said that it was under discussion but that a vote wasn’t necessarily imminent. Mr. Bartha noted that the BOE didn’t reject the projects, just expressed additional questions and concerns. Mr. Glenn clarified it as another walk through and there were still questions, particularly with the returns, or the cost of the installation and why it couldn’t be done internally. Ms. Levin cautioned that there could be warranty issues if the Town was to install the panels. Dr. Kennedy spoke of the necessity of qualified licensed individuals to do the work. Mr. Zahren said there is special training to the installation as well. Mr. Zahren questioned too whether the BOE had their own agenda with regards to the issue, like why wouldn’t the Town just bond the money?
Mr. Bartha summarized the status of the process as being that PPAs need to be negotiated and signed by later July. Once the BOE receives answers to their pending questions and concerns, they either will or won’t be comfortable moving forward, and a decision point will be reached.
Ms. Levin questioned if the hesitation would affect the Town’s project. Mr. Bartha said it would not. He added that next week’s meeting doesn’t necessarily call for a vote to move forward as he has not seen the agenda yet. Mid-July will be the decision point. Mr. Zahren offered that the financing piece shouldn’t be an issue as the PPA would be at no cost to the Town. Dr. Kennedy offered that you could certainly buy the panels, but would hesitate recommending installing or maintaining them yourself. Mr. Zahren concurred that you certainly could buy the panels yourself with a bond but that you’d still have to pay that off including the additional financing costs. Mr. Bartha noted that the Town probably wouldn’t have looked at a solar installation had it not been in the form of the PPA model, which is consistent with the approach taken in communities like Glastonbury, Plainville, and West Hartford.
Mr. Zahren explained that the cash rebates were gone now and SolarCity, with banks and insurance companies, can take advantage of the tax benefits where the Town cannot. He continued that this is why the proposal was so good and why SolarCity found our AAA rating attractive. Mr. Zahren said we’d be crazy not to take it. Ms. Levin continued that there were still some in the BOE who felt that it was still not a good enough deal. Mr. Glenn relayed that there were still some on the Board who still felt that bonding was the way to go. Mr. Zahren reminded that the Board did not have the unilateral decision to float a bond and the Town Council could reject it given the size and other costs. He added that we are at the bottom of the curve for solar and that it is not going to get any better and only go up in price going forward. He feared that if we miss this year there’d still be some people who’d delay it and wouldn’t do it next year either. Mr. Zahren stated for the record that there were people who’d prefer that and this is just a tactic to delay it and that he is highly insulted by that.
Mr. Gentile questioned if we could go back and do the two schools sometime in the future, perhaps if the cost could go down. Mr. Bartha said the two schools were targeted because of the newer age of the roofs. Mr. Bartha reminded everyone of the public meeting to be held next week that could help to answer these lingering questions. Mr. Zahren urged the members to attend the June 25th meeting to be held in the High School Community Room at 7:00PM. Mr. Gentile felt that BOE members were concerned that costs could be reflected in their budgets and wanted to be reassured. Mr. Zahren reminded that passing up saving the Town $35,000 - $40,000/year would be a bad decision. Mr. Bartha pointed out that most of the questions he had seen from the BOE since the joint meeting had to do with the AMS and AHS draft PPAs.
V. NEW BUSINESS: None
VI. COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE COMMISSION a. Solar PV renewable energy systems, b. Financing and other ways to receive support from State/National etc., c. Carbon footprint/software tracking/Clean Communities support
Mr. Bartha discussed the Town’s software and its compatibility with the EPA’s Portfolio Manager’s ability to track the town’s energy expenditures. Dr. Kennedy offered that information can be programmed to directly update the database without using staff to do so. Dr. Kennedy will email Mr. Bartha with the information that is available from CL & P and United Illuminating. Mr. Bartha reminded of the deadline date for Clean Communities as July 1, 2015 to have this info readied. He noted that both sides – the Town and BOE – will attempt to share the same EPA portal, so information can be viewed in aggregate.
Mr. Zahren asked Ms. Levin and Mr. Kretz to report on the status of financing and savings that could be achieved through other available programs. Mr. Kretz said they are waiting on the Town Council to see where they will take us. Ms. Levin added that they were going to wait and see where the schools were going to go with the solar before exploring the Solarize Avon program. Mr. Bartha said that Solarize Phase 5 was coming soon, but the Commission would need to be involved with implementation and PR. He noted the difficulty of the timeline the State gives the towns to respond to these programs and the dedication needed on the part of the members to pursue these. Mr. Bartha offered to forward the email of an upcoming webinar to the members. Ms. Levin reminded that we’d need to establish a grassroots effort to go out and organize meetings and communicate the program to the residents. Ms. Levin said the placement of the solar panels on the schools could provide a launching tool. Mr. Zahren said there were other communities who are doing this that have bypassed solar panels on roofs as a first step. He agreed that we’d need a volunteer group to do this that was beyond the members. Mr. Bartha suggested the members, with his help, pull a memo together to present to the Town Council regarding their pursuing the program. Mr. Kretz spoke of Canton’s success in signing up 30 – 40 residents to install solar panels through the program. Mr. Zahren recommended promoting CPACE for commercial applications as well.
Mr. Zahren noted that reducing the planet’s carbon footprint by buying RECs from a neighboring state was a rather hollow way but that rather we should concentrate on energy efficiency, save where we can and promote these programs that provide financing. Mr. Zahren continued that they (CEFIA) are completely off the grants now but are providing subsidized financing for the purchase of solarizing and other energy efficiencies.
Dr. Kennedy explained the Solarize CT program as basically a group buying discount club. Towns will try to get a group of residents to buy solar panels all at the same time – the panels and installation and has been quite successful. Ms. Levin suggested having introductory meetings around town or an article perhaps. Mr. Bartha noted that the State supports the program and that it could provide information. Ms. Levin added that maybe it was time to explore some of these other programs given the progress of the solar panels in town. Mr. Zahren encouraged the members to discuss to others the urgency of climate change and the extreme calamities that are befalling communities.
Dr. Kennedy discussed Canton’s efforts to obtain hydroelectric power. He relayed that three companies have submitted proposals and is anxious to see the outcome. He mentioned this because he feels that at some point Avon is going to be approached to get in the game or be asked for some kind of egress if work begins on the lower dam. Mr. Bartha noted that Canton had reached out to Avon share the bid results, but that no meeting has yet taken place. Mr. Zahren noted that they were still trying to run on the old technology but that they couldn’t have guarantees of flow from the MDC as they did in the old days.
VII. DO ANY BUSINESS TO COME BEFORE THIS MEETING
Vote: Ms. Levin motioned, Dr. Kennedy seconded and all agreed to adjourn the meeting at 8:20PM. None opposed. Mr. Kretz left early and was not present for the vote.
Chairman Bernard Zahren
Attest: Susan Gatcomb, Clerk