Cape Light Compact seeks to electrify homes

Compact continues to provide incentives for green power and heat.

Compact administrator Maggie Downey presents the three-year energy efficiency plan to Aquinnah selectmen. — Lucas Thors

Representatives from the Cape Light Compact (CLC) presented their three-year energy efficiency plan to the Aquinnah selectmen at a meeting Tuesday.

Maggie Downey, compact administrator for the CLC, told selectmen the plan provides new power opportunities for personal residences, income-eligible existing buildings, and commercial and industrial buildings. The plan will also provide a vision for energy efficiency programs into the future.

The 2019 to 2021 plan is the fourth to be filed by compact administrators to all 21 towns across the Cape and Islands. Downey said the mission of the continuing power program is to provide energy efficiency programs, effective consumer advocacy, and competitive power supply and green power aggregation.

“We are a model for other community choice aggregation programs in Massachusetts and recognized nationally,” Downey said.

According to Downey, in 2008, Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law the Green Communities Act, which mandates “electric and natural gas resource needs shall first be met through all available energy efficiency and demand reduction resources that are cost effective or less expensive than supply.”

The CLC works collaboratively with seven other statewide programs known as Mass Save to provide efficiency rebates and incentives to households that might not normally be able to afford alternative heat and power options.

One way the CLC hopes to create greener households is by pairing photovoltaic (PV) electricity with battery storage and cold-climate heat pumps. The goal of this initiative, known as the Cape and Vineyard Electrification Offering (CVEO), is to convert 700 households that originally relied on oil, propane or electric resistance heat to cold-climate heat pumps over the three year span. They also hope to install PV systems to “support electrification of heating systems, reduce GHG emissions, and offset increased electricity usage,” according to Downey.

The initiative has $18 to $20 million in funding for the three years of increased electrification. “This is not cheap,” Downey said. “We really are doing this to benefit the community, and we hope people will take advantage of it.”

The batteries would also allow for community resiliency by providing power during severe weather events when the central power grid is down.

The program will offer tiered incentives based on income level: income eligible (up to 60 percent of state median income), Moderate Income (61-80 percent of area median income (AMI)) and extended moderate income (81-120 percent AMI).

Part of the electrification plan, Downey said, is to explore ways to “incentivize connected devices like smart appliances, smart thermostats, Wi-Fi, and plug load controllers to reduce residential energy use.”

One reason Downey said it is difficult to access many residents on the Cape and Islands is because there are so many seasonal homes that are vacant for a large part of the year. “It is essential we reach these customers, because they are only using their homes when the demand for energy is high,” Downey explained. “The biggest challenge with customers here is we have a very limited window.”

She described how the power grid sees a fluctuation in demand for power throughout the day. “When people get back from the beach at 4 pm and they turn on their air conditioning, that is the worst time to use your AC because everyone else has their AC running,” she said.

The CLC provides incentive plans encouraging customers to use their stored power during non-peak times. She gave another example of someone with an electric car getting home from work. “We suggest, instead of charging your car right when you get back from work, wait till 9 pm to start charging, when the energy demand is low,” she said.

The CLC will continue to offer a Business Energy Audit which offers 100 percent incentive coverage for savings measures such as efficient lighting and water saving measures.

Insulation and green construction incentives are also available for new residential and commercial buildings.