~ Op-Ed ~
By Malden Councillor At Large Carey McDonald
Amidst a global energy and environmental crisis, working to stop climate change is one of the most important things we can do to protect our community in Malden. Rising global temperatures means more flooding and storm runoff, worse air quality, heat island effects, and especially rising energy costs.
As Massachusetts pushes toward the state “Net Zero 2050” goal of no net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, renewable energy is a big part of the strategy. Building the green energy economy through renewable sources will be great for our environment and create good-paying jobs. We can and must do more to promote green energy. Sadly, this can take the form of companies pressuring residents through dinnertime phone calls to buy into their private plans for renewable credits. And all too often, residents who buy in because they want to do the right thing end up getting taken advantage of, finding big surprise rate increases on their next electric bill.
I’m glad to say that the City of Malden is taking the lead by initiating what’s called a “municipal energy aggregation” program. Following a process laid out by the state, the city plans to negotiate a bulk electricity rate at a good price. This will allow residents to get reliable access to lower-cost energy and renewable energy, while discouraging those high-pressure sales. Everyone’s electric bill includes a minimum amount of renewable energy that is required by the state, so a city-based program will add to that standard. Residents will have the option to use the default additional renewable energy negotiated by the city, or stay with the basic National Grid rate. And if you choose, you can purchase up to fully 100% renewable energy for your home or business.
These bulk energy purchase programs, with additional renewable energy, have been a success in over 150 cities and towns in Massachusetts, including our neighbors in Stoneham, Melrose and Medford. They have increased renewable energy usage while stabilizing prices for consumers and investing in the green economy. And while bulk purchase programs can’t guarantee savings, buying in bulk does have its benefits – the current rates for a fully 100% renewable electric supply are less in all our neighboring communities with aggregation programs than the standard National Grid rate.
In the coming months, we’ll be holding public meetings as we develop the city’s plan for more renewable energy. We started talking about municipal aggregation in Malden in 2017, and now as the chair of the Energy Efficiency and Sustainability Commission, I’m so grateful for the Commission’s work in bringing this forward years later. Special thanks to former EESC City Council members Dave Camell and Craig Spadafora for their role in keeping this process moving. Thank you now to Mayor Gary Christenson for getting the ball rolling on the formal approval process. I’m excited to work in the coming years to help Malden protect our climate, our community and our consumers.