Aquinnah considers fees for vehicle charging

Developments for town facilities progress. 

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Aquinnah climate and energy committee chair Bill Lake, with the electric vehicle charging stations when they were installed in 2020, suggested monitoring town electricity use. — Courtesy Noli Taylor

Aquinnah considered implementing a fee for users of the town’s electric charging stations during a Tuesday afternoon select board meeting. Whether this comes to be or not will depend on what the town finds in its upcoming electricity bills from Eversource. 

Aquinnah climate and energy committee chair Bill Lake said the town’s charging stations, which are currently free, incurred around $20 to $30 electricity bills during slower months, and several hundred dollars during the busier months. 

“It’s appropriate to think about whether we start charging for the use of it,” Lake said, suggesting this be considered “in the context of the solar array.” 

According to Lake, the town’s solar array at the dump “puts energy into the grid,” and earns Aquinnah net metering credits, which can be used to pay electricity bills for town buildings. The town filed a Schedule Z when the arrays were first installed, which “lists the accounts that can benefit from those credits.”

“The array has produced more electricity than the town buildings use, so we were building excess credit we had no use for,” Lake said. While $30,000 worth of excess credits were sold at a discount to the Vineyard Transit Authority a couple of years ago, Lake added, “We don’t have any ongoing way of using up those excess credits.”

Schedule Z is an accounting document that directs a utility to transfer a percentage of monthly solar-electrical credits to another household, business, or organization within the same region and utility.

However, now the town buildings use more electricity than before, because of the switch to electric heat pumps. Additionally, several accounts have been added to Schedule Z, including the electric charging stations, which can affect how many credits are used. 

“The effect of that will show up in our Eversource bills, and what I’ll be very interested to see is whether, all things considered, we’re still producing excess net metering credits, or whether our total use now may actually exceed what we’re generating at the dump,” Lake said, adding that “unless we’re paying cash,” the town will not save money by charging users if there is still an excess of credit. Lake recommended waiting two to three months to review the situation. 

The board agreed to this approach, but another concern board member Tom Murphy brought up was people “staying for an excessive length of time” at the charging stations, and preventing others from using them. Pointing out the expected increase in electric vehicle ownership, Murphy suggested setting a time limit for the charging stations. 

Lake said the charging stations at the Cliffs have implemented the 90-minute limit the rest of the parking lot has, although this limitation is not at the town hall area’s charging stations. 

Aquinnah Police Sgt. Paul Manning shared that some people leave their electric vehicles overnight at the town’s charging stations “quite often.” Murphy and Lake thought this could be dealt with through enforcement, such as ticketing vehicles that break the 90-minute limit. Murphy said he thinks adding a sign to the town hall charging stations would be beneficial. 

In a related green energy topic, the board unanimously approved signing a bill of sale to finalize Aquinnah’s acquisition of the landfill solar array.

Meanwhile, the Aquinnah select board unanimously approved entering into an agreement with ICON Architects and Atlantic Construction to pay invoices to the firms for the completion of the schematic design planning phase for the town hall and its offices alongside the comfort station at Aquinnah Circle. This agreement is contingent upon approval from the Aquinnah building committee. 

A final price for the planning was not decided yet, but it cannot exceed the $200,000 in Proposition 2½ debt exclusion approved by voters during the spring town meeting and elections in May, according to Aquinnah town administrator Jeffrey Madison. 

Building committee member Karen Salvatore said ICON came onsite and “reviewed what we are proposing for [the] bare minimum of what we can do for the town, to bring it up to where it needs to be.” 

“They needed to do that prior to putting a proposal together, so they understood what the scope of work was,” Salvatore said. She expects the proposal to arrive before the committee’s next meeting on Thursday, Jan. 19. If the committee is satisfied with the proposal, it would then go to the board for approval. 

According to Salvatore, the committee wants ICON to go back and “look at what we can pull out to make it more cost-effective for the town.” This will come from different possible proposals. 

“We can look at each individual scope. They’re going to do a comparison of all three,” she said. Aquinnah’s plans that were worked on with ICON are available on the town website

In other news, the board unanimously reappointed Kathy Newman as the Aquinnah representative to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission. 

During a discussion about the Cliff lot leases, it was agreed Murphy would make further adjustments for the individual leases before entering into negotiations for the tribal leases. These leases are for the people who operate businesses at the Aquinnah Cliffs. Some business owners lease directly with the town, and others through the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah).

The board unanimously approved signing a $5,000 contract for upgrades to software used by the assessors to track house sizes and town mapping systems. The board also unanimously approved a $1,000 donation to the Aquinnah Police Department from Kaempfer Skippers Lane LLC. 

Aquinnah will be sending a letter of support for Navigator Homes, which would replace the current Windemere Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. No vote was taken on this action.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Why should the town give electricity away to people who are presumably rather well off ?
    As Mr. Murphy notes, EV use will increase. Eventually, there will be a greater need for more charging stations. Why not provide that service at a reasonable price ?
    If they have excess electricity from the solar array, putting a bus charging station out there would be a great idea.
    But I have to wonder what the people who are opposed to all things electric think about how well all this is working 10 years after installation.

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