By: Linda Zukauskas

April 26, 2014

NEWTOWN  — The Sustainable Energy Commission, meeting Thursday, April 17, heard Diana McCarthy-Bercury from Northeast Utilities to address the commission regarding the Bright Idea grant dollars.

She commended the commissioners on the hard work they did to earn the money and explained that the grant could be used to help the town save money that would have been spent on energy usage.

The money could be used on town facilities or any project that would benefit residents.

Ms. McCarthy-Bercury referenced the town of Madison, which is using its grant for an electric car recharging station that is not located on town property but will benefit the public.

She congratulated the town on its solar projects.

Chair Kathleen Quinn said the commission might want to recommend the town apply the grant dollars to a micro-grid installation.

“We should hear something tomorrow,” she added, saying that the commission has other ideas that could use funding.

Commissioner Desiree Galassi told Ms. McCarthy-Bercury the commission had discussed the installation of an electric car recharging station.

The NU representative said there are two sides to the coin, one of renewable energy and the other of reducing the energy used.

She reminded the commission the town earns points for every renewable energy project installed within its borders, by residents or businesses, and can claim a new grant for every 100 points.

She added that the grant could be used in part or all to help educate and raise awareness about energy savings and noted that N.U. could send representatives to make presentations.

Ms. McCarthy-Bercury said lists tax incentives available for people who invest in energy saving equipment or otherwise make an effort to save energy.

She said there is a new idea to pass incentives to manufacturers installers so that these people can offer customers a choice between standard and high efficiency equipment without a significant price difference between the options.

Currently, there is a higher cost for the more efficient systems, which may steer some customers to select the less expensive option.

This would take the burden of tracking the incentive from the end user and would be implemented in early summer.

During the meeting, Ms. Quinn reviewed the town’s solar projects, noting the town will get another 110Kw from new panels as soon as they are installed per a power purchase agreement on the animal shelter and Parks and Recreation Department garage.

She also provided an update on the Energy Savings Performance Contract.

The Public Building and Site Commission will review the data that has been produced, describing the energy usage of town buildings.

Ms. Quinn noted that the LEDs are not showing the significant savings that the town hoped to see and both commissions will pay attention to this factor.

As the buildings are addressed for energy efficiency, the contractors from Amaresco involved in the energy savings project will examine the quality of lights.

For example, it would be desirable to dim lights when teachers use SmartBoards in classrooms or perhaps to adjust the brightness of light at different times of the day, when the sun is strong.

“There’s still some fine tuning that needs to be done but we’re getting there,” Ms. Quinn said of the nine-page report.