SHIRLEY -- Energy Committee Chairman Bryan Dumont told selectmen last week that his group had just voted for an initiative and needed the board's blessing to move forward.
It would allow the owner's agent hired to oversee the town's solar energy initiatives to "secure the best net metering deal available" now rather than later.
The 250-megawatt goal the state of Massachusetts had set for solar projects was reached in June, four years ahead of schedule, Dumont said, explaining the urgency.
Development has essentially stopped," he said.
Dumont further explained that EPG, the company the town of Shirley and the Water District separately contracted with to install solar arrays in town, submitted applications that went "beyond the cut-off numbers set by National Grid."
The problem is that only a "specific number of megawatts" were available for municipalities to get "substantially reduced electric rates," Dumont said. Most of them have been spoken for, thus the "urgency to secure what's left by mid August."
The agent thinks there will be "some form of net metering" out there next year, he said. But it's unlikely the discount rate will be as generous as the deals being offered now, offering 25-percent rate reductions that could save the town over $8,000 on its current National Grid electric bill.
The agent proposes to buy 250 kilowatts at the current credit rate, with a total value of $34,025, Dumont continued, 75 percent of which goes to the solar company, with the other 25 percent allocated to the town.
Currently, the National Grid bill for nine town buildings is $49,346 annually, excluding the Town Offices, Police Station and Hazen Library, which are on Devens utilities. With the $35,550 in anticipated savings spelled out in the performance contract the town hopes to sign with ABM -- if Town Meeting approves entering into the contract and borrowing to pay for it -- net metering would further reduce the bill by $8,506, for total savings of $24,000, Dumont said.
"I'm here to ask you to authorize the owner's agent to work out a (net metering) deal," he said. "Otherwise, if the cap closes, she can't guarantee we'll get those credits."
The selectmen asked if the deal the O.A. aims to seek out would include the Water District solar project as well as the town's. Dumont said no, but they are looking at a similar proposal and the agent will "bundle" them for optimal savings.
The arrangement -- assuming she finds one -- would have no effect on other elements of the solar package, such as PILOTS (payments-in-lieu-of-taxes) and does not alter the promises made in the ABM performance contract, Dumont said. Rather, "it's all about cash value versus kilowatt hours," he said, citing a "time crunch to save on energy."
And with only half a megawatt needed, there should be no problem if the town acts now.
The selectmen voted unanimously to back the recommendation. David Swain made a motion to allow the owner's agent -- Beacon Integrated Solutions -- "to get us the best net metering rate available ... as soon as possible."