Last week the Hingham Light Board voted to make the light plant’s power portfolio more carbon-free by retiring the Renewable Energy Credits which come with the renewable energy they purchase, and not selling them on.

This decision is once again on the agenda for a special light board meeting this week, and it looks like they are going to revisit it for reasons unknown.

This question has been of tremendous interest to the Hingham Net Zero community, and we hope everyone who can will attend the meeting:

Hingham Light Board Meeting, this Wed. April 15, 7:30 AM (yes, in the morning!)

Here’s the link to the town website where you can get the phone and Zoom link to join in.

This is important because the electricity from our light plant is the only energy we use in Hingham over which we have direct democratic control, as owners of the light plant.

Showing up will demonstrate that we are watching what our elected officials do, and that we’d like to be heard.

To recap what’s at stake, if you are not familiar with this: a year and a half ago the board decided to make the energy portfolio carbon free. They did this by deciding not to sell the Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) which come with the renewable energy they buy, and by buying RECs to cover the fossil-fuel portion of their energy portfolio. They planned to revisit this issue periodically, and that’s what they’re doing. When Hingham Light’s RECs are sold to another power company, that allows that company to call an equivalent amount of dirty energy (which they use) “renewable,” and costs our light plant the right to call the energy that the RECs come from “renewable.” This is Massachusetts’ market-based mechanism intended to provide an incentive for the creation of new renewable energy.

How this all works is very complicated and confusing. For more background on what this is all about, here’s an explanation from the Mass Climate Action Network: MCAN explanation of RECs

The board has discussed three different ideas over the last year about how to go forward.

One is to sell the RECs and do nothing else. That would mean only the nuclear part of their portfolio is technically carbon-free, because they will have sold the right to call their renewable energy “renewable” to someone else. On the other hand, the RECs may bring as much as $750,000 to the light plant, although it’s impossible to know for sure, because the price rises and falls.

The second idea was to continue the practice of retaining the RECs as before.

The third idea was to sell the RECs and use the funds to support the Town of Hingham’s climate action planning in some fashion, perhaps by helping to underwrite the research and professional modeling which will be needed. This idea was never very fleshed-out, although the chair, Jack Ryan, asked the light plant manager to come up with a draft of what that might look like. If there is such a draft, it hasn’t come before the board in a meeting yet.

Two weeks ago the board voted to adopt the second idea, with Roger Freeman and John Stoddard voting aye, and Jack Ryan voting nay. This decision is what they are revisiting on Wednesday.