Over the next five weeks leading up to the May 22 Town Election, The Anchor will be featuring a series of questions for each of the competitive election races, including Light Board, Board of Assessors, Board of Health, Town Clerk, and Select Board.
We hope voters will carefully read the responses to understand each candidate better and help inform their decision-making at the polls. You can find more information about the local election, including candidate announcements and profiles, on our Local Elections page.
First up, we connected with John Stoddard and Laura Burns, who are both running for a seat on The Light Board.
Anchor Question: There's been a lot of discussion about moving Hingham to more renewable energy. Besides cost, what would be some of the positive and/or negative results on other departments in town if we move in this direction?
Response from John Stoddard, Candidate for Light Board:
Renewable energy is much a much debated and discussed topic of recent years and there are many positive results from obtaining renewable energy.
Some of the challenges to making this happen would be:
Town departments such as Fire, Police, Schools and DPW would need to upgrade their facilities, by adding solar panels, heat pumps to supply heating systems and A/C cooling systems and improve insulation. Upgrade interior and exterior lighting and parking lot fixtures to all LED lighting.
Any new construction of buildings must meet requirements set in place by the Building Energy Codes Program
Departments would need to purchase hybrid vehicles and when possible electric vehicles, since not all vehicles are available in all electric power. This would include all fire and rescue vehicles, DPW, HMLP and even all golf carts at the South Shore Country Club. All existing diesel vehicles would need to transition to biodiesel fuel.
Of course, the most important positive result would be decreasing carbon dioxide emissions which we are in favor of world wide.
The newly acquired water department land space, Weir River Water System at 900 Main Street, could potentially support solar panels to supply that facility with solar power with the possibility of excess being sold back to HMLP.
Bare Cove Park, in addition, has available space on building roofs which could potentially serve as solar panel sites.
If elected I would work to make these changes a reality, to meet the goal of 100 percent carbon free power by 2050.
Thanks for your vote!
Response from Laura Burns, Candidate for Light Board:
To move our town’s operations towards renewable energy, we need to address three areas: heating and cooling, general vehicle fleets, and specialized municipal vehicles (dump trucks, firetrucks, police cruisers, harbormaster’s boats, etc.). The goal is to electrify uses which were previously served by fossil fuels. Because Hingham Light has committed to moving towards a carbon-free future, our town’s electricity will become greener every year – fossil fuels never will.
We need to change our expectations around upfront capital costs vs. ongoing operational expenses. Many energy-efficient or renewable technologies are more expensive up front but are cheaper to operate over the whole life of the asset. For example, police cruisers are heavily used on every shift, and operate 24-7. Electric cruisers will be more expensive up front, but they’ll have advantages. They’ll stand up better to constant use, because they need less maintenance - so they’ll have a longer life. Spending more up front may mean less need for frequent replacement. And the fuel will be cheaper. We’ll need to do this kind of cost-benefit analysis wherever we’re contemplating a change in technology.
Each decision about replacing a fossil-fuel driven activity with a more efficient or renewable-driven activity will have the disadvantage that it requires more time, new thinking, and a change to “the way we’ve always done it.” The advantages in many cases will be work environments that are less dirty, more healthful, and quieter for employees, and many changes will be cheaper in the long run.
I think the Light Board should become a resource for town departments seeking to electrify their operations. Having to do a new cost-benefit analysis on making the switch is challenging for busy administrators. Helping to do the research, identify state and federal resources to assist with the cost, and facilitating the electrical changes needed to electrify operations would be an expanded role for the Light Board, but we need someone in town government to focus on assisting the transition to electric power. Why not the Light Board?