Cape Light Compact ignores a windfall

By Chris Stimpson

Let's start with the near-certainties:

First, the Nantucket Sound wind farm will be permitted. The draft environmental impact statement was overwhelmingly in favor of it, citing benefits to our health, economy and energy future, while debunking the disingenuous doomsayings of opponents. Nothing has surfaced in the year that followed this statement to contradict its findings. Absent any more backdoor dirty tricks from our upright representatives in Washington, there is little that can stop its approval now.

Second, when the power from the wind farm comes ashore, the laws of physics assure us that it will be used at the closest points of resistance downstream from the Barnstable substation - that is, the towns of the Cape and islands.

Cape Wind Associates' siteThird, the developer - Cape Wind Associates - will make money from its huge investment, no matter to whom it sells its power, even after making the lease payments set by the Department of the Interior (27 percent of which will be returned to Massachusetts). And so one should hope; there's not an energy producer or distributor in this most capitalist of countries that is not a profit-seeking business, including companies like Dominion and Mirant, whose fossil-fuel plants produce electricity, and like NStar, which distributes its output to the Cape and islands.

Now, did you catch the contradiction up there? Cape Codders using wind farm power is not the same as Cape Codders buying the power. I don't have the room here to explain the full intricacies of power generation, aggregation, buying and selling in New England, except to note that they would delight and challenge the mind of Erno Rubik.

However, the raw fact is that, even though Cape Wind has many times stated its desire to sell its power through 10- to 15-year fixed-price contracts to Cape Codders - and what a windfall (!) that would be for us - the system in place demands that the company sell to an aggregator, not to individual consumers. Such an aggregator could be, for example, ConEdison, which is perfectly capable of selling the power to consumers in Connecticut, Pennsylvania or farther afield.

So if the money that ends up in Jim Gordon's pocket actually started out in the bank accounts of New Yorkers or Philadelphians, allowing the ''Filthy Five'' oil-burning plant in Sandwich to continue to pollute our lungs, whose fault would that be?

Bad news, folks. It would be ours.

Cape Light CompactGordon's company can build the wind farm and bring the power ashore; the rest is up to us. And on Cape Cod, we have a resource in the form of the Cape Light Compact, which could work to secure those amazingly beneficial long-term contracts for its constituents - you and me.

The compact's current mission is to procure electricity at the most favorable rate possible for Cape and islands towns, and this it does to the best of its ability. But the representatives of the compact have shown little or no interest in acting as aggregator for Cape Wind's output, even though it would take a relatively minor retooling of its mandate to allow it to do so.

The compact exists to serve consumers' interests, and nothing would serve our interests better than to have our power bills stabilized to the maximum extent possible. We can achieve this goal only if we have the will to make it happen; in plain terms, this means that every one of us should be demanding action from our politicians, who make the laws, and from our selectmen, who appoint the compact representatives, and from the compact representatives themselves. And that action must be to stop ignoring the inevitable and do whatever is needed to create an entity out of the Cape Light Compact that can lock in our electricity rates on the Cape, even while oil and gas prices rise exponentially.

If this does not happen, what kind of judgment will history make of people who dwelt at the locus of an energy revolution in this country, yet turned their backs on the benefits it promised?

Winston Churchill's famous wartime exhortation to America - ''Give us the tools, and we will finish the job'' - bears remembering today. On Cape Cod, the tools exist in the representatives of the Cape Light Compact; finishing the job is up to us. Shame on us if we do anything less.

Chris StimpsonChris Stimpson of Bourne is a board member of Clean Power Now. Chris is a native of Great Britain. After a 13-year career in the Royal Air Force he settled on Cape Cod in 1981. He has spent most of the time since in the advertising business, with a focus on high-tech industries. He has also been a local independent businessman and now works in radio advertising sales. He performs secretarial duties for Clean Power Now, and lends his creative skills to the advertising and publicity efforts of the organization.


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