An electrifying proposal for Chilmark selectmen

Vineyard energy committees vow to purge fossil fuel use from Vineyard by 2040.

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Chilmark energy committee chairman Rob Hannemann gives a presentation to Chilmark selectmen. — Rich Saltzberg

Chilmark energy committee and finance committee chairman Rob Hannemann came before Chilmark selectmen to pitch an “aspirational goals” warrant article for the annual town meeting. The article mirrors the goals of the all-Island energy committee — to end fossil fuel use on the Vineyard in two decades, and to transform the Island’s energy consumption to 100 percent renewable energy. 

Hannemann said by 2030, the all-Island energy committee hopes to see fossil fuel use on the Vineyard reduced by half, and eliminated by 2040. A tandem hope is that by 2030, renewable energy use on the Vineyard will increase by 50 percent, and reach 100 percent by 2040. 

He said the planet was rife with examples of climate change. For example, he said, “September was the hottest September ever.”

He also said by 2050, Boston will go from 20 days a year above 90 to 60 days above 90. Hannemann said the Vineyard will be affected by similar temperature shifts.

With the advent of climate change, he said, the Vineyard must undergo energy adaptation. Vineyard Wind plays a “big role” in that, he said.

On-Island it’s going to take leadership, he said. 

“The goal is aspirational, but achieving that goal by 2040 means that every single home in Chilmark that is heated with propane has to be heated with something else,” selectman chairman Warren Doty said. 

“That would be true,” Hannemann said. 

“It means that every truck delivering lumber to somebody’s house has to be an electric truck and not a diesel truck,” Doty said. “It means that every tractor-trailer delivering groceries to Cronig’s has to be an electric vehicle.”

“You’ve got it,” Hannemann said. 

“Every fire truck needs to be an electric fire truck,” Doty said. “If your goal is to eliminate fossil fuels by 2040, that is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do.”

“It is,” Hannemann said. “But you know, it’s an extraordinarily difficult crisis that we’re under right at this moment.”

Hannemann went on to say he’s not “blithely” pitching these goals. A lot of thought and planning has already taken place. Cooperation from utility companies and the implementation of offshore wind will be critical steps, he noted. Dialogue with Eversource about cooperative projects is already underway, he said. 

“Electrical vehicles are rapidly nearing the price point of internal-combustion cars — with lower maintenance costs,” he said. 

He noted Ford Motor Co. announced an electric SUV on Monday. “Tesla is going to announce an SUV in an affordable price range just later this week,” Hannemann said. And Amazon signed a contract with a company called Rivian for 600,000 delivery vans that are going to be electric. So this is coming on very quickly.”

“I understand it’s an aspirational goal,” selectman Bill Rossi said, “but I don’t think it’s outlandish. I think we could get a very high percentage of that goal done.”

The board took the matter under advisement. 

In other business, the board gave a reminder announcement that on Dec. 4, from noon to 8 pm, the town will hold a one-ballot-question election. Voters will be asked to affirm a Proposition 2½ debt exclusion for $440,000, unanimously approved on Oct. 28 at a special town meeting. The funds are to pay for an owner’s project manager, a clerk of the works, and architectural work for a replacement to Chilmark’s Fire Station and a headquarters for Tri-Town Ambulance. The $440,000 approved is additional to $200,000 voted in at the last annual town meeting for the same purpose.