More than half of Ocean City’s energy usage will be renewable by next summer, saving the town roughly $311,000 per year in electricity costs, according to town officials.
The Town Council recently voted to move toward a higher percentage of renewable energy by signing a 36-month contract with Mid-Atlantic Electrical Services, Inc. This new contract will go into effect after July 2019 when the current one expires.
With its current electricity contract, Ocean City uses 35 percent renewable energy — 15 percent mandated by the state of Maryland, plus a 20 percent premium.
Even before this new electricity contract goes into effect, Ocean City will see an increase in green energy. In January, the town’s solar panel farm, located near the intersection of Route 50 and Route 90, will become operational, providing for 25 percent of the town’s electricity. A groundbreaking for the solar project will take place later this month.
The solar project will help Ocean City keep pace with the state’s increasing renewable energy mandate. Next year, all cities and municipalities in Maryland are required to have 25 percent renewable energy.
Electricity from Mid-Atlantic will make up 75 percent of the town’s energy usage, with the solar project powering the rest through a separate contract.
Out of that 75 percent, Ocean City will comply with the state’s requirement of 25 percent renewable energy. The Town Council voted during a recent meeting to add a 10 percent premium on top of that.
The premium would cost the town about $45,000 over a three-year contract, but most council members said it was worth the larger savings of almost $560,000 over three years.
Council member Gehrig said this extra 10 percent now will help Ocean City eventually reach 100 percent renewable energy in the future.
He added that this move toward more higher renewable energy will show that the town is pursuing green energy options other than offshore wind farms.
Although most of the council was in agreement, Council Member Wayne Hartman was opposed to the decision due to the added cost of the 10 percent premium.
“To take $45,000 of the taxpayers’ money and say, ‘It feels good to do this’ — you’re gonna waste it,” Hartman said. “It would be irresponsible to throw away $45,000, I can’t support it.”
In response, Mayor Rick Meehan said he thinks this $45,000 over three years would be a small price to pay toward Ocean City’s renewable energy goals, especially since the town would be saving more money on electricity costs.
Ultimately, Meehan said he hopes Ocean City will achieve 100 percent renewable energy, and this decision would put the town closer to that.
“I certainly don’t think it’s a waste of money, it’s a different way to allocate the money or to allocate the potential savings,” Meehan said.
Council President Lloyd Martin, whose house is powered 80 percent by solar panels, vouched for renewable energy, citing his positive personal experiences with it. Although Ocean City is a small town, it can still make a difference, he said.
When the vote was called, it passed 6-1 with Hartman being the dissenting vote.
But it wasn’t until days after the council had voted on next year’s electricity contract that they realized there had been a miscalculation with the renewable energy percentages.
The auction held to decide the best prices for the town’s electricity had closed just an hour before the meeting. City Engineer Terry McGean and Mike Payne, a consultant with APPI Electric, had rushed to get the numbers ready for the presentation. After the meeting, they realized the miscalculation and clarified the numbers with the council.
Because the solar farm accommodates for 25 percent of Ocean City’s electricity, the contract with Mid-Atlantic only accounts for 75 percent of the town’s energy usage. The Town Council agreed to 35 percent renewable energy within that 75 percent, which is roughly equivalent to 26 percent of the total energy usage.
With an added 25 percent from the solar panels, Ocean City’s anticipated green energy total for next year is 51 percent. At the meeting, it was incorrectly calculated to be 60 percent.
The Town Council did not return a request for comment on whether this miscalculation affects its decision to add the renewable energy premium.
“It shouldn’t have gotten this complicated, but the great news is we’re getting more renewable energy and saving more money,” McGean said.
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