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Avon Town Council Seeks Firmer Financials Before Committing to Hydroelectric Initiative

Town officials agree that net metering legislation is key to project's financial viability.

Although they voiced their general support for the redevelopment of hydroelectric power at the Upper and Lower Collinsville Dams, the Avon Town Council members said Thursday they would need a clearer financial picture of the proposed project before signing on as a participating town.

“I remain supportive of the renewable energy project — and I think I speak for all the council members here — but the financials will certainly have to work for us,” Avon Town Council Chairman Mark Zacchio (R) said during Thursday’s town council meeting at Town Hall.

During the meeting, the council received an overview of a report released last month that explored the feasibility of re-powering the dams.

Briefing the board members were Canton First Selectman Richard Barlow, Canton Hydro Project Advisory Committee Chairman Matt Stone and Chad Cox, an engineer with the Massachusettes-based GSA GeoEnvironmental, the company that developed the report.

The town of Canton is the lead agency on the project, with Avon and Burlington having the option of joining the effort if it moves forward.

The study — which was commissioned by the town of Canton and funded through a $50,000 grant from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund — found the key to the project’s financial viability is how the energy produced is utilized.

According to the report, the most efficient and cost effective method for using the electricity generated by the dams would be through a “virtual net metering” arrangement.

Net metering would allow energy credits generated at one directly connected town-owned meter to be applied to other town-owned meters, thereby “virtually” distributing the electricity to offset overall utility costs.

“You could use the power generated at the lower dam to power your schools,” Barlow said.

The problem, however, is that Connecticut is one of the few states in the nation that does not allow for virtual net metering arrangements.

But legislation within large state energy bill SB-1, now under consideration by the General Assembly, would allow Connecticut municipalities to employ net metering.

The state Senate is slated to vote on the bill Friday, with the House expected to cast their votes before the current legislative session ends in Hartford on June 8.

“Clearly it comes down to the net metering and grants,” Zacchio said.

“We’re supportive of the regeneration of the dams on the energy side,” he said. “But there’s just a lot of balls up in the air right now.”

Barlow agreed, and added that while the project could still proceed without the net metering measure, it would require a significant increase in the amount of grant funding needed to make the project a financially feasible one.

“Right now we still have our fingers crossed that the cheapest way will still go forward,” Barlow said.

Tom Harrison June 03, 2011 at 12:07 PM
If the financials are worked out, I think Avon should definitely join in this project. The dams are already in place and there is no good reason not to put them to work for the people. The Council is correct to wait for more information about the costs, and did the right thing by saying that it is not walking away from the project. Tom
Barbara Zuras June 06, 2011 at 02:28 PM
Thanks to the Council for not pulling the plug on this project. Given the dire consequences of continuing to rely on coal, oil and gas, the town should take the long view. By staying with the project and looking for ways to make it more financially viable, the Council would be helping to shape a more energy independent future. Regionalizing energy costs is so smart! Hopefully, the state legislature will provide the means to make this project happen.

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