Local Colleges Join New England College Renewable Partnership | Connecting Point | May 16, 2018

>>> IN RECENT YEARS, SEVERAL COLLEGES IN THIS REGION HAVE STEPPED UP THEIR GAME WHEN IT COMES TO ALTERNATIVE ENERGY USE AND EFFICIENCY NOW FIVE NEW ENGLAND LIBERAL ARTS COLLEGES, FOUR FROM THIS REGION, HAVE JOINED TOGETHER TO CREATE A SOLAR POWER FACILITY THAT WILL OFFSET MUCH OF THEIR COLLECTIVE ELECTRICAL USE

I SAT DOWN WITH ENERGY EXPERTS FROM WILLIAMS, AMHERST AND SMITH COLLEGES TO LEARN MORE >> WELL, WE EACH HAVE GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSION REDUCTION GOALS, AND I THINK WE HAVE ALL KNOWN EACH OTHER FOR AWHILE PROFESSIONALLY, AND WE JUST TALK ABOUT THE VARIOUS CHALLENGES AND STRUGGLES AND WHAT WE ARE WORKING ON, AND THROUGH THOSE DISCUSSIONS WE JUST STARTED THINKING ABOUT THE IDEA OF WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF WE TRIED TO TACKLE RENEWABLE ENERGY TOGETHER RATHER THAN SEPARATELY AND THE REAL INTEREST WE HAD WAS TRYING TO MAGNIFY OUR IMPACT ESSENTIALLY, AND TRYING TO DO MORE THAN ANY ONE OF US COULD DO ALONE, AND WE ARE ALL FAIRLY SIMILAR ORGANIZATIONS AND THAT GAVE US SOME CONFIDENCE THAT WE WOULD BE ABLE TO PULL IT OFF ANY TIME YOU DO A COLLABORATIVE PROJECT THERE IS IS A LOT OF CAT HERDING WE LIKE TO SAY, BUT BECAUSE WE ARE SIMILAR AND WE HAVE SIMILAR STRUCTURES, WE WERE FAIRLY CONFIDENT

>> BUT STILL IT TOOK ABOUT TWO YEARS TO GET THE PROJECT TOGETHER, RIGHT? IS THAT BECAUSE YOU ARE FIVE DIFFERENT ORGANIZATIONS TRYING TO AGREE ON ONE WAY TO DO SOMETHING, OR WHAT WAS THE TWO-YEAR PROCESS? WHAT DID YOU GO THROUGH DURING THOSE TWO YEARS? >> I THINK THAT'S A LITTLE BIT OF IT ONCE YOU GET FIVE COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES TOGETHER AND TRYING TO MATCH CALENDARS, THAT ADDS TIME TO THE PROCESS BUT REALLY WE DIDN'T WANT TO ASSUME THAT A COLLABORATION WAS GOING TO BE THE BEST CHOICE WE WANTED TO INVESTIGATE WHETHER COLLABORATING TOGETHER WOULD BE ABLE TO AS AMY SAID KIND OF INCREASE OUR SCALE AND OUR IMPACT, OR COULD WE DO THE SAME THING INDIVIDUALLY AND THEREFORE MAYBE THAT WAS THE BETTER WAY TO GO SO I THINK THAT'S WHAT ADDED SOME TIME TO THE PROCESS

WE HAD SOME CONSULTANTS HELP US FIGURE OUT WHAT DIFFERENT PROJECTS WE COULD CONSIDER, WHAT DIFFERENT STRUCTURES WE COULD CONSIDER FOR THE PROJECTS, AND WHETHER COLLABORATING WOULD REALLY ACHIEVE OUR GOALS >> THE NUTS AND BOLTS OF THE PROJECTS TO HELP PEOPLE UNDERSTAND WHAT EXACTLY THIS WILL DO THEY HEAR 5,000 HOMES WORTH OF ENERGY OR 46,000 MEGA WATTS OF ENERGY WHEN YOU ARE HERE IN MASSACHUSETTS AND THE SOLAR PROJECT YOU WILL BE ACCESSES IS IN MAINE, HOW DOES THAT HELP HERE? >> THE NEW ENGLAND GRID IS OPERATED AS SORT OF A SINGLE SYSTEM SOMETIMES WE THINK OF IT AS A BATHTUB AND IT'S FULL OF WATER, AND LOTS OF PLACES WHERE WATER IS BEING ADDED TO THE BATHTUB AND PLACES WHERE PEOPLE ARE PULLING WATER OUT OF THE BATHTUB

YOU HAVE TO KEEP THE LOAD LEVEL SO ENERGY WHEN IT'S MARKETED, ELECTRIC — THERE IS SOMETHING CALLED RENEWABLE ENERGY CREDITS, WHICH ARE AN ATTRIBUTE THAT TELLS PEOPLE THAT IT IS FROM A RENEWABLE SOURCE IN THIS CASE WHAT WE ARE PURCHASING ARE THOSE RENEWABLE ENERGY CREDITS SO THAT WE CAN CLAIM THE ELECTRICITY WE ARE USING IS COMING FROM A SOLAR SOURCE, AND WE'VE MADE AN AGREEMENT, A LONG-TERM AGREEMENT WITH THE PRODUCER, THAT HELPS BUILD THAT FACILITY >> SO THIS WILL BE A BRAND-NEW FACILITY IN MAINE, FIVE DIFFERENT ENTITIES ARE USING IT, TAPPING INTO WHY MAINE? >> I GET THAT QUESTION A LOT FROM OUR LOCAL COMMUNITY

WE DID A LOT OF LOOKING THROUGHOUT THE TWO-YEAR PROCESS, AND WE LOOKED AT LOCAL POSSIBILITIES, REALLY LOCAL IN TERMS OF ON OUR CAMPUSES OR IN OUR COMMUNITIES, AND THEN WE SORT OF LOOKED A LITTLE BIT MORE BROADLY AND LOOKED IN MASSACHUSETTS AND STARTED LOOKING MORE BROADLY THAN THAT SOME OF IT HAS TO DO WITH THE READINESS OF THE GRID INFRASTRUCTURE TO ACTUALLY TAKE MORE RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECTS, AND SO THE LOCAL GRID INFRASTRUCTURE NEEDS TO BE PHYSICALLY CAPABLE OF TAKING THE PROJECTS AND THEN ALSO THE UTILITY NEEDS TO GIVE PERMISSION FOR THOSE PROJECTS TO BE CONNECTED TO THE GRID AND CERTAINLY AT WILLIAMS WE ARE HAVING REAL TROUBLES GETTING THAT INTERCONNECTION AGREEMENT LOCALLY, AND SO WE STARTED LOOKING FURTHER AFIELD AND MAINE WAS THE CLOSEST PROJECT THAT WE HAD FAIR CERTAINTY WOULD ACTUALLY HAPPEN >> NOW IN TERMS OF THE ORGANIZATION OF THE GROUPS WORKING TOGETHER, THIS MARKS THE FIRST TIME THAT A GROUP OF COLLEGES OR UNIVERSITIES HAVE WORKED TOGETHER IN THIS WAY

WHY DO YOU THINK YOU ARE THE FIRST? THERE IS LOTS OF PEOPLE WORKING TOWARD DIFFERENT RENEWABLE ENERGY GOALS >> WE ARE NOT THE FIRST GROUP OF COLLEGES TO COME TOGETHER THERE HAS BEEN — AT LEAST WE ARE AWARE OF IN WASHINGTON, DC, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY, GEORGE WASHINGTON, THE MEDICAL CAMPUS I BELIEVE, AND ONE OTHER CAME TOGETHER AND PURCHASED A RENEWABLE ENERGY PROJECT TOGETHER

W WE ARE FIRST IN OUR REGION THAT WE ARE AWARE OF THERE IS RENEWABLE HAPPENING EVERYWHERE WE ARE LUCKY TO LIVE IN A STATE APP REGION THAT HAS STRONG RENEWABLE ENERGY PORTFOLIO STANDARDS AND A LOT OF RENEWABLE ENERGY ACTIVITY HAPPENING TO HELP ADDRESS CLIMATE CHANGE >> I THINK SUSTAINABILITY WORK HAS FAIRLY DEEPENED ITS DNA COLLABORATION, AND THAT SUSTAINABILITY OR LACK THERE OF IS A REALLY COMPLEX, COMPLICATED PROBLEM, AND IN ORDER TO GET ANY PROGRESS ON IT AT LEAST WE KNOW THAT PEOPLE HAVE TO WORK TOGETHER, ORGANIZATIONS HAVE TO WORK TOGETHER, AND SO I THINK THERE IS A — JUST A STRONG TENDENCY TO HAVE COLLABORATION TO BEGIN WITH, AND IN SOME WAYS WE AS SUSTAINABILITY PROFESSIONALS WERE ABLE TO LEAD OUR ORGANIZATIONS TO BE MORE COOPERATIVE BECAUSE, YES, THERE ARE SOME PARTS OF THE ORGANIZATION FOR WHOM IT WAS NEW, DIFFERENT, A LITTLE BIT SCARY, BUT WE WERE ALWAYS THERE ESSENTIALLY WITH THE COMFORT LEVEL THAT WE HAVE WITH EACH OTHER SAYING THAT WE CAN DO THIS, IT WILL WORK OUT >> WE HAD A SUSPICION AT THE BEGINNING THAT WORKING TOGETHER THAT THE SCALE WAS GOING TO HELP, AND ACTUALLY THAT IDEA PROVED TO BE TRUE

>> IN WHAT WAY? HOW DID IT HELP? DID IT HELP GET BERETS — BETTER RATES FOR YOU ALL? >> WE NEEDED TO BE LARGER IN ORDER TO — >> THEY WANTED YOU USING MORE ELECTRICITY >> TO BE LARGER TO APPEAL TO A CERTAIN SET OF DEVELOPERS NONE OF US ON OUR OWN COULD HAVE DONE THIS >> THE 20-YEAR SCOPE OF THE PROJECT, IT LOCKS IN THE RATES YOU ALL PAY FOR THE NEXT 20 YEARS DO YOU RENEGOTIATE A CONTRACT IN 20 YEARS? WHAT HAPPENED

>> HMM >> QUESTION MARKS >> TO BE CONTINUED >> SO THE SOLAR PANELS ARE LIKELY TO ENDURE TYPICALLY THEY HAVE — THEY OFTEN COMMERCIALLY ARE THOUGHT TO HAVE A 20-YEAR LIFETIME

IT TURNS OUT THAT THEY ARE LASTING A LOT LONGER THAN THAT THEY ARE PRETTY ROBUST WE WILL HAVE TO PROBABLY CONTRACT FOR NEW ELECTRICITY CAN BE FROM ANOTHER FACILITYR – I THINK BY THAT TIME THE MARKET IS GOING TO HAVE EVOLVED AND WE ARE ABLE GOING TO BE ABLE TO DO THIS SO IT WON'T TAKE TWO YEARS

>> LOOKING AT THE DIFFERENT COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES THAT ARE TAKING PART IN THIS, YOU ARE NET NEUTRAL WHEN IT COMES TO ENERGY HELP PEOPLE UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT MEANS AT HOME IT'S NOT NECESSARILY THAT YOU WON'T BE DRAWING ELECTRICITY FROM THE GRID YOU ARE GOING TO OFFSET IT IN SOME WAY THROUGH THIS PROJECT? >> THAT'S INTERESTING THERE IS ACTUALLY A LOT OF CONVERSATION ABOUT WHAT CARBON-NEUTRALITY OR NET NEUTRAL MEAN, AND ONE OF THE PROFESSORS WHO WORKS AT SMITH RECENTLY CAME TO WILLIAMS AND POSED A GREAT QUESTION, YOU SHOULD THINK ABOUT USING CARBON-NEUTRALITY AS A TOOL FOR MAKING THE CHANGES THAT SOCIETY NEEDS TO MAKE RATHER THAN SORT OF AN END IN AND OF ITSELF

AND SO WHEN WE THINK ABOUT CARBON-NEUTRALITY, WE THINK ABOUT WE NEED TO USE AS LITTLE ENERGY ON CAMPUS AS POSSIBLE, AND THERE IS A LOT OF QUESTION AS TO HOW TO DO THAT AND WHAT THAT MEANS AND THEN ONCE WE USE AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE ON CAMPUS, THEN WE NEED TO THINK ABOUT WHERE THAT ENERGY IS COMING FROM, AND THAT'S WHERE A PROJECT LIKE THIS COMES IN, WE ARE SHIFTING OUR ELECTRICITY TO A ZERO EMOTION — EMISSION SOURCE AND YOU PAY FOR A PROJECT SOMEWHERE OTHER THAN ON YOUR CAMPUS TO REDUCE EMISSIONS WE ARE WORKING ON ANOTHER COLLABORATIVE PROJECT THINKING ABOUT WHAT THOSE SORTS OF PROJECTS WOULD LOOK LIKE IN THE LOCAL COMMUNITY CURRENTLY A LOT OF THOSE PROJECTS HAPPEN ABROAD, BUT WE'RE INTERESTED IN THE IDEA AND THE THOUGHT ABOUT IS THERE A BENEFIT TO DOING THEM LOCALLY AND WHAT WOULD THAT LOOK LIKE

>> I LOOK FORWARD TO LEARNING MORE ABOUT THAT THANKS FOR COMING IN TODAY >> YES >> THANK YOU >> THANKS

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