The original

New Apr 30, May 2

On this page

Supporting materials

The facts

Return to

Concord Campaign for Quality Governance

Now we are post Town Meeting 2010, Concord MA.

Read below for the situation leading up to TM

For the original Commentary – prelude to this web site – use the nav link to the left.

For renewable energy — a solar array?

Concord, along with the rest of society, is faced with transitioning to renewable sources of energy, for its electricity supply. We look out, in effect, at a technological sea-change. For the first step to a good decision process, we must identify the technological options and then vet them against each other.

Instead, the Town administration has responded to a current fad, namely, financial schemes for only a single technology, solar (specifically, solar photovoltaic (PV)). This current fad is driven by subsidy monies and the entrepreneurs who try to leverage those monies.

Supporting materials — for the Commentary published, The Concord Journal, April 15, 2010. Click each, to go to the supporting item.

Unfortunately, after a few questions were asked recently, it began to be clear that solar is twice as expensive, or more, when compared with for instance wind. And Concord has a live opportunity to acquire power from wind sources. In fact, the wind source might supply very much more ‘renewable’ electricity than a local solar array. And the wind power price to Concord would still be materially better than solar – even after subsidies artificially reduce the solar price.

But the Town administration wants Town Meeting to push forward with a vote on its solar scheme – ignoring the other technological options and the much greater real cost. That would be like planning a trip, but trying to buy the airline ticket before the destination has been picked!

In fact the Town administration has had close to half a year – steadfastly they fail to take the essential first steps, to vet the technological options. And now only days remain, until Town Meeting.

Take what we can?

Are you tempted to judge and decide while looking only at the subsidized price Concord would pay? You might say:  So long as Concord can get a lower price, what does it matter that we have made the wrong choice? So what, that we have forced a total cost – in the end, we will all pay it … – that is double the economical choice we could make?

Is that the responsible choice?

“[T]he facts show unequivocally that [solar photovoltaic power] is a terrible investment …”

George Monbiot, the Guardian newspaper online, the UK
11 March 2010

“My own instincts press me to support solar power. … I am deeply attracted to the idea of being able to produce my own power, just as I love producing my own fruit and vegetables. But my attempts to find the best means of tackling climate change … have forced me to put my gut feelings to one side. Our choices must be based on the best possible information. Otherwise we waste our lives chasing chimeras.

“Against my instincts I have come to oppose solar photovoltaic power (PV) … and the [subsidies] designed to encourage it, because the facts show unequivocally that this is a terrible investment. There are much better ways of spending the rare and precious revenue that the [subsidies] will extract from our pockets. If we are to prevent runaway climate change, we have to ensure that we get the biggest available bang for our buck: in other words the greatest cut in greenhouse gas production from the money we spend. Money spent on ineffective solutions is not just a waste: it's also a lost opportunity.”

Excerpted from, emphasis added to

To trust the process

To get good choices, especially on big-ticket items, the Town must enjoy a trustworthy decision process.

Unfortunately, we see a repeat of the opposite: Three years ago, in the Morgan Stanley episode, the Town administration also pursued a financial fad. It also failed to honor the transparency essential to trust.

A repeat performance, this time, now over renewable energy sources, may not be a surprise. But it makes clear the urgency to rectify this Town administration process.

David Allen

Heaths Bridge Rd