School Department in line for $100,000 in savings with net metering proposal
By Robert Fucci
Selectman Jesse Limanek said it best: Whenever Energy Manager Doreen DeFazio is present, it means the Town of Sutton is saving money.
During the May 16 Board meeting, Town Administrator Jim Smith and DeFazio presented the Selectmen a net metering agreement that would cut the town’s electricity bill by 30 percent and, more importantly, save the School Department up to $100,000.
Net metering is defined as a system in which solar panels are connected to a public utility power grid and surplus power is transferred onto the grid, allowing customers to offset the cost of power drawn from the utility.
“The time is right,” Smith said, adding that the net meter deal done at the State House recently solar renewable energy credit (SREC) program which devalues net credits. “I feel good about this deal. It finally broke in the right direction.”
Smith said the net metering agreement is with Minnesota-based ECOS Energy, which has a system running in Spencer.
“I’ve been dealing with them, with town counsel and (former Town Administrator) Orlando Pacheco,” Smith said. “We’re very close to having a deal.”
In 2015, Sutton voted to authorize the Board to enter into agreements for the purchase of net metering credits for a term of 20 years. The town is currently using net metering credits from its own system at the Manchaug fire station. All of the energy not used there has been transferred to the Senior Center.
Smith said he hopes to present a contract to the Board by its next meeting on June 6.
With this deal, Sutton would receive the credits within 45-60 days, DeFazio said.
The town currently uses 2.25 million kWh from Sutton Middle/High School, Sutton Elementary School and the Simonian Learning Center, the Schools Treatment Facility, Town Hall, Wilkes fire station, highway facility and sewer pump stations.
According to Smith, the opportunity to join the Spencer grid was due to another municipality declining the offer.
“This is a green community effort,” he said. “Purchasing credits benefits the town, it benefits a solar farm developer, it benefits us overall. We continue to push for energy savings and we’re already looking into next year’s grant applications. If we get those done by the fall we can apply for them next March.”
Chair John Hebert praised the opportunity.
“Doreen, whatever you do is well done,” he said. “We’re finally getting educated about net metering. We’re ahead of the curve vastly from other towns. Saving $100,000 will make the School Department more sound.”
Superintendent Ted Friend was thrilled over the savings which will help with the $180,000 budget gap due to an added teaching position, the Sutton Teachers Association contract and Chapter 70 funding.
“This $100,000 goes a long way toward closing that gap,” Friend said. “Thank God it went through. It will be able to help offset (the gap). In the long run, it’s going to be great. We’ll be able to count on that every year which is fantastic.”