To the editor:
The last two weeks saw a flurry of activity as the Light Board moved ever closer to embracing solar. Last week, 450 signatures of residents demanding simple retail net metering was submitted to the Light Board and, in my opinion, the Light Board started changing the Municipal Light Advisory Board (MLAB) membership to be more responsive to resident sentiment.
The need for a membership change was made apparent at Tuesday’s [June 23] MLAB meeting when the outgoing chair launched into an ideological and unsubstantiated diatribe attacking residents and elected officials alike. As much as he is ideologically opposed to rooftop solar, residents clearly want more solar not less as manifested in three packed public hearings, 130 letters, and two petitions. Residents simply want the same Net Metering policy that is practiced successfully in 98 percent of Massachusetts towns. The town doesn’t need such divisiveness, close-mindedness and unprofessionalism from an appointed official.
Jim Williams, the new Light Board liaison to Belmont Light, asked residents for a proposal and residents provided it to the Light Board. The Light Board didn’t deliberate or vote on the residents’ compromise proposal but it agreed to Williams’ suggestion to strike language from the 2011 policy in order to jump start solar installations this summer while a newly-appointed Temporary Net Metering Working Advisory Group decides on the residents’ proposal.
The Light Board’s method to create the Working Group was problematic, however. There was no prior public request for resumes, no written mandate and the deliberation didn’t include many names of qualified people who applied.
The Light Board decided that the Working Advisory Group has three voting and two non-voting members. The Light Board may have thought it was forming an unbiased Working Advisory Group but I found that two voting members opposed Town Meeting’s Article 9 (tinyurl.com/NBRTMArt9a). One voting member is as ideological as the MLAB chair and has written publicly in opposition to retail Net Metering. Another voting member criticized residents’ 35-page comment letter to MLAB (tinyurl.com/ResRep0815) in writing last year. He favors utility scale solar not residential solar. Obviously, utility scale solar is not an option in Belmont. Thus, the biased creation and make-up of the group undermines the credibility of whatever the Working Advisory Group ultimately recommends. Once the Working Advisory Group delivers its recommendation, there is no reason to believe that it puts an end to the discussion.
It’s not too late for the Light Board to change the voting status of the Working Advisory Group members or add ordinary residents to the group to counterbalance the Working Advisory Group’s anti-residential solar bias in a majority of the voting members.