Why Belmont Clean Energy? Because living in a town with a municipal utility means it is up to the residents of Belmont to manage the utility in a way that is responsible to future generations. Our utility, Belmont Light, does not have to follow many of the state and federal regulations regarding clean energy policy that the Investor Owned Utilities, which provide electricity to most of Massachusetts, have to follow. Our Board of Selectmen—who are the ultimate decision makers regarding Belmont Light policy—took advantage of this freedom from regulation to enact one of the most anti-solar tariffs in the United States. Strange as it may seen we now live in one of the most anti-solar communities in the country which happens to be in one of the most pro-solar states in the country.
This website grew out of the discussions a group of residents have been having about how to try convince the Selectmen and fellow Belmont residents that this decision is bad for Belmont and bad for future generations. Certainly the issues go beyond solar panels. Residential solar is just one way to produce clean energy and this website will try to consider other issues that Belmont Light should deal with in terms of climate change action.
The issues involved in clean energy can be somewhat technical and difficult to quickly grasp. As a result it can be tempting to leave decision making to experts. The problem with this approach is that the important decisions that we must make regarding the management of our utility often require value judgments about how to consider the impact of our actions on future generations which the expertise of industry insiders can do little to inform. In fact, there is the danger that industry insiders may have biases—conscious or unconscious—that lead their decisions in directions that residents—if they fully understood the issues—may not ultimately feel is best. It would be similar to leaving healthcare reform completely in the hands of insurance industry executives—not necessarily the best idea. The interests of insiders don’t always match the interests of the public. The opinions of industry experts are important but these issues are too important to simply leave to experts. We must inform ourselves and make decisions for ourselves.
This website is an attempt to provide some basic information about the issues involved so Belmont residents can make up their own mind. Of course the website itself has its own biases. That is inevitable when issues that are so value-laden as climate change action are dealt with. But hopefully the website will start conversations that will benefit everybody. At least that is the hope.