SCARBOROUGH — Town Councilors on Wednesday unanimously adopted an energy plan that recommends creation of a town energy office and a cooperative that would eventually buy and sell energy on the market.
The 2011 Town of Scarborough Energy Plan is the culmination of work started under former Town Manager Ron Owens in 2006 to address energy conservation and promote clean energy in the town.
It was passed after an amendment clarified that the plan contains only “recommendations” – an effort to ease fears the town is committing to unknown spending.
Though lacking in specifics such as time-lines and costs, the plan recommends five actions: establishment of an energy office, implementation of conservation efforts, continuation and improvement of energy benchmarks, implementation of an “integrated energy model” and continuation and expansion of education and outreach.
The Scarborough Energy Office would serve as a clearinghouse for information about energy and energy efficiency and would direct residents to appropriate providers. It would also handle the town’s energy benchmarks, seek grants and deal with the state on the town’s behalf in energy issues.
In an effort to address energy costs, the plan also calls for the creation of the Scarborough Energy Cooperative, as well as the creation of a “tri-gen” facility that would meet the heating and cooling needs of the Town Hall, library and middle, intermediate and high schools.
Tri-gen facilities are energy plants that serve relatively small areas and use steam generated as a byproduct of electricity production to heat or cool nearby buildings. The Energy Committee, citing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency numbers, said tri-gen facilities can lead to fuel reductions of up to one-third.
A 2010 Energy Committee report outlined a plan for the cooperative to purchase and sell wholesale energy on the ISO New England grid. Excess energy produced by the proposed tri-gen facility would be funneled to the cooperative, from which the town would purchase it’s power supply.
Town Council Chairwoman Judith Roy said the energy committee had already begun tentative talks with Portland, South Portland and Cape Elizabeth about joining in the cooperative plan, but that the reaction so far had been tepid. Town Manager Tom Hall said talks would continue.
Councilors and Hall were quick to point out that the adopted plan does not commit the town to act on any of the recommendations. Hall said councilors should see the plan as a “touchstone” to consult as the town moves through each budget cycle.
In other business, the council postponed until July a second reading on a zoning ordinance change that would relax rules governing building coverage in industrial districts, increasing the maximum from 35 percent to 50 percent.
The council must wait to take action on the proposal until the Planning Board can hold a public hearing and make a recommendation.