Township to Purchase 100% Renewable Electricity
The Lower Merion Board of Commissioners voted on October 17, 2018 to purchase future electricity supply services that are 100 percent from renewable sources, while at the same time saving more than $644,400 over three years and making a positive impact on reducing the Township’s carbon footprint.
Using the Environmental Protection Agency’s Greenhouse Gas Calculator as a guide, the Township’s decision to use green, renewable energy for its electricity will reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 8,336 metric tons per year. That is equivalent to the greenhouse gases of 1,785 passenger vehicles driven for one year; the CO2 emissions from 1,249 homes’ electric use over a year; or the carbon sequestered by 68 acres of forest preserved in one year.
“This really is a significant decision, and I would submit also an easy decision,” said Dan Bernheim, President of the Board of Commissioners, at the meeting. “We’ve always considered ourselves to be on the cutting edge and the leading edge, and this is one of those areas where we should not be shy about doing that.”
Nine firms responded to a request for bids from the Township, with better than expected numbers, said Township Manager Ernie McNeely, who presented the Commissioners with multiple pricing options at the monthly public Board meeting.
Mr. McNeely’s recommendation was to split the award between two bidders—Engie (for the Township’s buildings) and Constellation Energy (for streetlights and traffic lights). It is anticipated that about $209,000 per year will be saved over a 37-month term. (Currently the Township purchases green energy at a 10 percent level.)
The action is only the latest among a string of energy conservation moves by the Township, noted Commissioner Scott Zelov. The Bala Cynwyd Library (renovated in 2013) uses geothermal energy, he said, as one example. Lower Merion also has an aggressive tree replacement policy, a composting facility, is currently improving the viability of the mulch available to all residents, utilizes a trash-to-steam plant, and is updating lighting in public buildings to LED technology (and considering doing so for all streetlights). Mr. Zelov also cited the Lower Merion School District for its environmental efforts, including the building of two new LEED-certified high schools, with notable water conservation efforts.
Several members of the public also spoke in favor of the move to renewable electricity, with none voicing opposition. The final vote from the Board to authorize an agreement with the two companies was unanimous in consent.
“This is only a start, and not all decisions are going to be easy decisions like this,” said Commissioner Andrew Gavrin, chair of the Board’s Environmental Initiative Committee. “As we heard from the public and through the recent Sustainability Workshop, we need to include sustainability throughout all of our planning.”
The purchase of 100 percent renewable electricity from Engie and Constellation will go into effect December 1, 2018.