I was wondering what people think about the Belmont Municipal Light Dept. proposal to build a new substation to handle the increasing peak electricity demand in Belmont (http://www.town.belmont.ma.us/public_documents/BelmontMA_LightNews/Announcements/WC%20packet%20for%2010-14-09%20meeting.pdf; the presentation was video’d at the Oct. 14 Warrant Committee meeting, http://www.belmontmedia.org/public/new_shows.html#warr). As I understand from the BMLD materials, the project would cost $34 million and be funded by bonds which would be paid back and serviced by our electricity bill payments. The new substation would eliminate our need to use NStar’s transmission lines and the associated fee, so our electricity bills are expected to decrease. Town Meeting will vote on the proposal at the special meeting starting Nov. 16.
My concern is that we’re not addressing the cause of the increase in peak demand. With the increased capacity, the motivation to conserve may decrease. As far as I know, Belmont’s population is not growing, so per capita, we’re using more electricity (at least at peak times) than 10 years ago. There are many good reasons to upgrade our system, which are well-presented by the BMLD. There may even be additional reasons, e.g., to prepare for potential development (perhaps “smart growth”) in Belmont, new technologies such as plug-in cars, or (sadly) adaptation to global warming. However, decreasing our carbon footprint is crucial for our environment, so I would like to know how much conservation measures (e.g., smart meters, time-of-use billing) could reduce peak demand and what efforts are being made to find carbon-free sources of electricity.