SELCO announces plans to have net-zero carbon emissions by 2032

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By Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter

Power lines in Shrewsbury. (Photo by/Dakota Antelman)

SHREWSBURY — Shrewsbury Electric and Cable Operations (SELCO) has created a plan to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2032. 

This means that every residential, commercial and municipal SELCO customer will get net-zero power. 

The plan, which was approved by the SELCO Commission in July, comes after Town Meeting approved a climate emergency declaration in May and after the state established guidelines for utilities to reach that benchmark by 2050. 

During an Aug. 10 Board of Selectmen meeting, Town Manager Kevin Mizikar commended General Manager Christopher Roy and Director of Integrated Resources and Communications Jackie Pratt for their efforts.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “It’s a wonderful thing to be able to support the community. The Board of Selectmen always talks about creating ways for people to thrive. This not only helps the environment, but it helps individuals maintain a low-cost utility and be part of the solution.”

SELCO officials detail specifics of net-zero plan

According to Roy, there are 41 municipalities in the state that have their own utility, such as SELCO. Of the 41, Roy estimated that about half a dozen have implemented similar net-zero timelines, though others are considering it. 

SELCO is projecting that the 2032 monthly rate for 750 kWh will be $96.99. SELCO’s current 2021 rate is $91.37. 

Pratt said SELCO has also been looking at what’s important to their customers. 

They conducted a survey of SELCO customers found that, as of July 14, 66 percent of customers wanted SELCO to be either somewhat or very aggressive in reducing their carbon emissions. That was an increase from 48 percent in 2019. 

Further, 31 percent of customers wanted SELCO to reach net-zero carbon emissions by either 2035 or sooner, according to Pratt. 

“With our roadmap to 2032, we are meeting and exceeding customers’ expectations on that front,” Pratt said. 

According to SELCO’s presentation, the utility company is starting with a baseline of having 37 percent carbon-free power with a goal of being 45 percent carbon-free this year. 

SELCO plans to increase its carbon-free percentage by 5 percent every year until 2032, when it will reach 100 percent. 

Roy said the policy outlines different methods SELCO can implement to meet the regulations and hit their target. 

“If we’re all progressing as a heating, as a transportation sector, as an energy sector and all trying to arrive at 2050 independently, it’s going to be a pretty large uphill battle,” he said. “So really, the only mechanism to achieve large progress in achievement of these aggressive goals is to have a foundation that’s non-emitting by nature.”

Town presented with sustainability suggestions

As Pratt put it, the roadmap to net-zero emissions is for the utility itself. But she offered some ideas for what Shrewsbury could do from the town’s perspective. 

A good first step is to establish a municipal climate action/sustainability plan to complement its Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program plan, which is a state plan to increase a municipality’s resilience to hazards from climate change.

Other ideas were to electrify municipal vehicles as well as new and existing buildings. That would include incorporating solar and battery backups for buildings when possible, offering tax incentives, creating an energy best practices list for new construction and economic development, and having codes that encourage emissions reduction.

“Theoretically, if a homeowner had an electric heating system, electric vehicles and had no fossil fuel use within their home by 2032, they would be themselves carbon-free,” Pratt said. “Transitioning in all these areas is important for everyone.”

Select Board Chair John Samia said the town is talking about strategic planning. These recommended next steps would be important, he said.

“This really sets forth who we are as a community, not only for SELCO, but it’s really, what’s our legacy, what do we leave the next generation of residents not only in town but in the Commonwealth and world,” Samia said.