HARVARD — Having determined after some discussion that potential benefits outweighed possible risks, selectmen recently signed a net metering agreement the Energy Advisory Committee introduced a couple of weeks earlier.
The refined version of the agreement members brought back to the board last week was the outcome of a proposal the EAC has been working on for eight months, member James Elkind said, noting that the window for clinching the deal was closing fast.
“We responded to your questions and feel we addressed the issues” selectmen brought up at the earlier session, he said.
Basically, the town agrees to buy a certain number of “energy credits” from the seller, translating to a percentage of the output from a solar facility named in the document, which is in the works but not yet up and running. Those credits, presumably purchased at a cost below current electric rates, will be used to offset the town’s future electricity bills.
Reading through the final document, Selectman Ron Ricci pointed out a couple of items selectmen asked for but didn’t get, including a limit to the town’s legal obligation if the facility fails to perform.
Elkind said it seemed clear that if the facility doesn’t produce solar power, there would be nothing for the town to buy, therefore making the agreement moot.
Ricci wasn’t so sure. He reasoned that if the town has a contractual obligation to buy electricity over a 20-year term, the seller’s legal obligations should be spelled out, too.
For example, the town could be left holding — and paying for — credits it can’t cash in on if the facility underperforms, takes longer than envisioned to start up or if it shuts down. But the contract apparently doesn’t include a default clause. “Anything could happen” he said. “That’s still my opinion.”
“The biggest risk to the town is opportunity cost,” Elkind replied. And with the town only buying credits for half its electricity use from this facility, “there’s room to go for something else,” he said, such as brokering a new deal with another provider.
Chairman Stu Sklar agreed the town likely had nothing to lose by seeking this gain. “We’re not investing. We only pay the bill if the facility is producing,” he said.
“No risk, no savings,” added Selectman Leo Blair.
“If the system is offline for days, even years, I think we’re out,” Elkind opined.
The board voted unanimously to sign the contract as presented.