Michael Hull - Candidate for Light Department
Marblehead Beacon is presenting these candidate profiles in advance of our June 21 town elections with the goal of helping the community learn more about all of the individuals volunteering their time to run for public office. Please note that the answers included here are printed exactly as provided by each candidate, with only minor typographical edits. Marblehead Beacon does not endorse any candidate or validate any responses. All candidates for the Select Board, Town Moderator, Board of Health, Light Department, and School Committee who had available contact information were given the opportunity to respond to a set of questions specific to the office for which they are running.
What is your professional experience and how has your background prepared you to serve on the Board of the Light Department?
After serving in the United States Navy, and returning to Marblehead, I went to work for Macomber’s Electric and was first introduced to the Light Dept as we interacted on a professional level. After starting my own company in 1990, that relationship continued and grew due to the many people I knew on the line crew and administratively. So I have long standing knowledge of the workings of the department. In 2012 I was approached about running for the Board. After attending multiple meetings and getting a feel for the job and giving it some thought and discussions with my wife I decided to take a shot and was fortunate to land a seat. I was elected in May 2013 and have proudly served since. The last 8 years as Chair.
If you are currently serving, what do you believe are your most significant accomplishments thus far? If you are not currently serving, how would you evaluate the efforts of the Light Department over the past year?
In 2014 the Board had to make a significant decision to terminate the existing General Manager, not done often in the industry. For an extended period of time, myself and our then Distribution/Interim G.M. had to guide the Dept through not only the daily operations but some critical projects including revamping our 5 megawatt generator onder DEP guidance. That generator helps us offset costs by being in the ISO New England capacity market and we are paid approximately $250,000.00 per year to be on standby. I have also been at the forefront with our efforts to transition our power portfolio to a non-carbon emitting status. In the last few years alone we have entered into various hydro, wind, and solar projects which will put us on a pathway to being in line with the Massachusetts 2050 roadmap to net zero. I also was part of the team who secured grant monies for both the public EV charging stations as well as the National Renewable Energy Lab’s feasibility study for wind and solar in Marblehead.
What are your top priorities to accomplish this year if elected or re-elected to the Board of the Light Department?
To see our infrastructure projects, mainly the Village 13 substation upgrade proceed as well the Tioga Way property be converted to our new pole/ transformer yard to make room for a utility scale battery at Village St.
Do you believe that providing electricity at the lowest possible cost to ratepayers should be the primary goal of the Light Department? Why or why not?
Of course, but there are mitigating factors that can affect the necessity of rate changes. I can tell you that the Dept works very hard to maintain rate stabilization.
Do you believe that ratepayers should be charged for electricity based on time of day usage (higher prices during peak hours)?
I personally am not a proponent. I think we are working on several fronts to educate the rate payers about conservation in general as well as getting the word out when we know there is going to be a “peak.” We are currently in a rate study to determine the next course of action.
Marblehead currently caps the amount of solar capacity a household can install at 50% of the usage of the home on which it is placed. Do you support that cap?
I believe that is dated information. We welcome solar and are happy to buy back any extra produced. That 50% percent was early on when we were trying to get up to speed on the effect it may have had on our system.
Do you support incentivizing solar installations by allowing for solar panel net metering (selling extra power back to the grid) at the full retail rate as is currently done by investor-owned utilities like National Grid?
We have a rate of 9.9 cents per kw hour for residential buy back. Our aggregate cost to buy energy is 4-5 cents per kw hour. I believe our rate is more than fair.
Do you believe Marblehead residents should pay higher utility rates to achieve net carbon neutral status?
We have a program in place right now which allows any rate payer, who wishes to sign up, to ensure all of their energy is coming from non-emitting sources at a slightly higher rate. Our goal is to find a blend of resources that will get us to the goal by 2050 without loading it on the backs of our ratepayers.