PODCASTEnvironmentally Speaking EP 85: And the Award Goes To…

June 22, 20230

Transcript: And the Award Goes To…

CLARICE: Hello, everybody. And welcome to this week’s episode of Environmentally Speaking.MARISA: Hi, everybody. I’m Marisa Desautel an environmental attorney.

CLARICE: And I’m Clarice. I’m coming in with questions, comments, topics. And this week we’re talking about awards. It’s not award season, but it is award season in apparently the clean energy space.

MARISA: It is. And we are a little bit behind in talking about this topic because I believe that the state of Rhode Island went through its clean energy award process in May, but in our defense there were timely topics that we thought we should talk about first. Now that those are behind us, it’s not like the clean energy awards were going anywhere, but we feel it is a good time to let our listeners know that the state of , so that’s what we’re going to be talking about today.

CLARICE: Yeah. Absolutely. And specifically this is awards across the public sector.

MARISA: What do you mean by public sector? Versus private?



CLARICE: My interpretation of that is — and correct me if I’m wrong, but this isn’t like somebody’s private business.


CLARICE: They’re not getting an award for their clean energy, though, you know, not to say that they shouldn’t be making moves towards clean energy, but this award is just in this department and recognizing these public sector, sort of, I’m going to say, organizations and institutions.

MARISA: And it looks like the public sector includes municipalities, school departments, state police, and utility districts.

CLARICE: Yeah. Those are the big categories that we’re seeing which I thought was interesting that there’s a category for whole municipality.

MARISA: Whole as opposed to just a portion of one.

CLARICE: Well, I just didn’t think that, you know, there could be an award that big. Like which municipality did well over all? I don’t know. In my mind it went smaller. Like I could see a school or a public works department or I guess an entity of local government but the whole municipality, it felt very big to me.

[0:03:03] MARISA: Oh, I see what you’re saying. The municipality undertook comprehensive energy efficiency projects throughout the entire jurisdiction. Okay. That makes sense. Well, since we’re talking about municipalities let’s start with that —

CLARICE: I love it.

MARISA: — that as the first category. What do we have?

CLARICE: So we have North Kingstown as the winner.

MARISA: Oh, yeah. North Kingstown.


MARISA: What did they do?

CLARICE: And like you said, they kind of did an overall approach. They implemented reading the — this announcement with the breakdown of the awards was sent in an e-mail and we’ll put some of the details in the show notes. But reading off of that and pulling out some of the notes, it looks like one of the major initiatives — and this is going to be such a — it sounds like such a small thing to do but such a big impact, converting all the streetlights to LEDs and making major upgrades to all the historic town halls — or to the major upgrades to the historic town hall.

MARISA: Because there’s only one.

CLARICE: Yeah. Including the HVAC system, temperature controls, low emissivity. I don’t think I’ve ever heard emissivity.

MARISA: Emissivity, yeah. I’m pretty sure —

CLARICE: Emissivity.

MARISA: — it means low emission replacement windows.

CLARICE: Yeah. I’ve heard the low emission.


CLARICE: But, yeah, replacing the windows. Essentially they took the town hall and made it much more energy efficient, focused on conservation of energy in that sense. Oh, they installed EV charging stations at the golf course. I didn’t finish the sentence.

MARISA: Yeah. So a couple of interesting points there, I think, is that the North Kingstown town hall was built in 1884, so they made energy efficiency upgrades to a building built in 1884. I’m sure that was not easy. Historic buildings and if you have an historic home you know that nothing is new — duh — but also things are slightly canted. The floors are crooked. The windows leak. So to go in and make energy efficiency upgrades is pretty remarkable and I’m sure took a lot of time and money to figure out. And I like what you just said about the EV charging stations. If you have an electric vehicle, you’re always looking to see where you can get your car charged and it seems like North Kingstown decided to put these charging stations in at their municipal golf course because it’s so popular. There’s a lot of foot traffic and car traffic that goes in and out of there, so I think that that was a pretty smart move.

CLARICE: Absolutely.

[0:06:02] MARISA: Nice job, North Kingstown.

CLARICE: Yes. I am seeing more and more of the EV charging stations specifically in Rhode Island, so that’s exciting to see pop up.


CLARICE: Very happy about that.

MARISA: All right. What’s the next [inaudible].

CLARICE: We’ve got public schools. The Jamestown School Department, nice.

MARISA: What did they do?

CLARICE: So they’ve implemented a variety of projects throughout the year. The first one was two solar rays and a carport solar canopy at the elementary school.


CLARICE: Very cool. There’s another solar array. I can’t say array today.

MARISA: You’re like struggling with the words.

CLARICE: Reading is not my talent. Another solar array at the middle school and, wow, this project is going to offset 84 percent of the electricity for the school district annually.


CLARICE: Making the Jamestown School Department the first district in the state to achieve this renewable energy benchmark. That’s very, very cool.

MARISA: Solar arrays and carport solar canopies for those folks that are not familiar are passive renewable energy infrastructure that require startup or construction costs and then generate electricity for both the site on which it’s located and can also transfer that energy to the grid for another offtaker or for the utility itself. It’s an excellent passive type of renewable energy project that, in this case, didn’t require the clear-cutting of existing forest or other natural resource, so I think that’s great, putting solar on the rooftop, putting solar on a carport, both excellent projects.

CLARICE: And I’m wondering, too, if — I mean, this piece doesn’t say it, but there’s got to be even some small perk of if there wasn’t already a carport there, if it was an open parking lot and they turned it into a port because of it. That’s got to be nice, too.


CLARICE: Your car’s going to stay dry. You’re not walking in the rain.


CLARICE: And you’ve got a structure that’s going to collect passive energy.

MARISA: Yeah. Yeah.

CLARICE: What a cool benefit.

MARISA: And it keeps the cars cooler, so when you’re getting into the car at the end of the day you’re not using as much air conditioning which is good.

CLARICE: I love this. Go Jamestown.

MARISA: Wait. And they did one more thing where they updated their ventilation systems.

CLARICE: Yes. Yeah. Oh, good catch.

[0:09:01] MARISA: Yeah.

CLARICE: Yeah. Goal of that was healthier indoor air quality and obviously improving the comfort and health for the students and faculty, so.

MARISA: Imagine that, the comfort and health of students and faculty.

CLARICE: I love it.

MARISA: Excellent.

CLARICE: Oh, I love that project. That one’s cool.

MARISA: Yeah. Okay. Thirdly, we’ve got the Rhode Island State Police department.

CLARICE: Yes. [Inaudible].

MARISA: This category is qualified as state agency, so that’s the category we’re talking about.

CLARICE: Yeah. So this one was a collaboration. It was the RI State Police collaborating with RI Office of energy Resources and the Rhode Island Division of Capital Asset Management & Maintenance.

MARISA: I’ve never heard of that division, by the way, Capital Asset Management & Maintenance and I have been in state government for a very long time. I’d be curious to see what that division is. But, anyway, go ahead.

CLARICE: It’s a lengthy title, too. I’ve never heard of them either.


CLARICE: They completed a — same thing, similar to North Kingstown, a comprehensive lighting controlled retrofit at the RI State Police Public Safety Complex.

MARISA: And I think that’s — is that in Providence?

CLARICE: It doesn’t say but I think so.


CLARICE: It looks like everything is now LED. It’s going to save the state over $45,000 a year.

MARISA: In energy costs, right?

CLARICE: Just in lights, yeah.


CLARICE: Again, the agency also upgraded the HVAC system with a heat pump, installed installation at the barracks drastically improving the comfort, efficiency, and operations. The project’s energy savings are estimated to result in nearly 200,000 pounds of avoided CO2 per year.


CLARICE: Taking another substantial step.


CLARICE: That’s a lot of pounds.

MARISA: Yeah. I’m always unsure of when they’re talking about avoided carbon dioxide emissions, what the relative contribution is. Like I don’t know what other state police facilities are emitting, so it’s tough to — not get excited because getting excited about energy efficiency is kind of geeky, but it’s tough to know — 200,000 pounds sounds like a lot, but compared to what other facilities are emitting I don’t know. I can’t give you any kind of feedback on that.

[0:12:07] CLARICE: That’s a good point.

MARISA: It got an award, so let’s just assume that it’s a substantial amount of avoidance.

CLARICE: Here’s a question you may not have the answer to. How is something like that tracked?

MARISA: Yeah. That’s what I mean. I have no idea.

CLARICE: Oh, no. No. But I mean in general is there a way to measure emittance of that? Is that something that’s like consistently done?

MARISA: I don’t know.

CLARICE: Lots of questions.

MARISA: I know the Clean Air Act requires monitoring of air emissions at certain types of facilities. Commercial and industrial process facilities have an actual stack that you can go out and DEM will do its own testing and it also requires the facility to do testing and submit the results to DEM for review. But in terms of a state police facility or barracks or training facility, they don’t have a discreet type of emissions conveyance, I don’t think — maybe they do — that annual emissions testing is required for. Maybe they do. Maybe I’m just ignorant on this.

CLARICE: Either way I think even just between the HVAC, the LEDs it’s some great first steps. I love it. I love the fact that they’re doing it. I love the fact that they thought about it. It sounds like they did some, like we said before, collaborations with the Office of Energy Resources to think about what could we do and they got a plan in place, so I’m happy to see it.

MARISA: Yeah. Just as a soapbox statement here, I’m such a supporter of our first responders, police, fire and I think it’s wonderful that someone within that sector got involved with energy efficiency because those public sectors are busy saving our lives every day and putting their own lives on the line. And I think it’s very telling and a sign of our time that even industry like that is putting aside time and resources to invest in energy efficiency.

CLARICE: Love it. And who knows, hopefully the HVAC and the insulation will maybe make it an easier day, a warmer day, a comfier day.


CLARICE: I don’t think it’s going to be easier.


CLARICE: But just, you know, small some creature comforts, so.


CLARICE: Good things all around from them. This next category —

[0:15:03] MARISA: I’m very excited about this next category.

CLARICE: You want me to say it because you know I don’t know how to say it.


CLARICE: This is the public sector entity and I don’t know how to say the winner’s name.

MARISA: Come on. Try it.

CLARICE: Oh, goodness. All right. Our dear roadie listeners, now is the time to confess. I am not a Rhode Island native.


CLARICE: Pascoag.

MARISA: Oh, that was close.


MARISA: So the G is kind of silent. I’ve always said it Pascoag.

CLARICE: Pascoag. Okay.


CLARICE: All right.

MARISA: I did live in Harrisville for a short amount of time and so I feel qualified to say that it is pronounced Pascoag.

CLARICE: All right. Listeners, I need you to write in. If she’s setting me up —

MARISA: The Pascoag Utility District, the reason that I’m excited about this category of award is because they moved forward with installing a battery storage system. What the hell is a battery storage system?

CLARICE: A Tupperware.

MARISA: True. I mean, you’re not wrong, but in this case a battery storage system is an extremely important type of project because in Rhode Island we are marching forward with trying to get to fossil fuel independence and the governor signed the Act on Climate which gets us to a certain percentage of relying on only renewable energy sources by a certain deadline. Part of the — or excuse me. One of the issues associated with reaching that goal is Rhode Island does not have a battery storage infrastructure built, planned even in an infancy type of stage. We’re just not there yet.

The Rhode Island legislature this week ended its 2023 legislative session and the battery storage issue came up, but it was not solved. There were no bills that came out of the session to address battery storage. And it’s a huge problem because we’ve got all of these renewable energy projects that are generating energy and there is a good offtaking situation that’s been set up where renewable energy is actually being used or sent back to the grid, but there is some energy being generated that is wasted. It goes nowhere. There are no offtakers for it. The grid can only handle so much electricity generated. The rest of it goes nowhere. And it’s not a detriment to the environment, but it’s wasted and if there could be a storage infrastructure set up then we could further our goal of using renewable energy even more, so it would assist in getting the state to the renewable energy goal that’s included in the Act on Climate.

That was a very long-winded explanation of why I’m excited, but I felt it was necessary because the public sector entity award went to this utility district that took it upon itself to install a 30 megawatt battery storage system which will help avoid over $6 million in large transmission upgrade costs. They essentially built a system on their property that has the ability to store electricity generated that they can use at a later date.

[0:19:26] CLARICE: Okay. That’s really cool. I get why you’re excited now.

MARISA: Very cool. Yeah. Yeah.

CLARICE: Now, here’s a question. Does stored energy eventually have an expiration date? How long can you keep it stored?

MARISA: That’s a great question. I don’t know. And thank God there are people out there much smarter than me that are figuring that out. This project partnered with a storage company called — oh, God. Now here we go with me trying to pronounce things. Agilitas Energy, does that sound —

CLARICE: I’d go with that, yeah.

MARISA: Agilitas. Agilitas Energy, okay. They partnered with the Office of Energy Resources, as well, to create the battery storage system and the Pascoag Utility District availed itself of the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank’s financing. For those of you that don’t know, there’s an entity called the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank which assists with providing financing for projects here in Rhode Island, so that was a good partnership. There was a grant involved, as well, with the Office of Energy Resources, so it looks like the Pascoag Utility District had to do a lot of work on the financing end between the Infrastructure Bank and OER. Grade project.

CLARICE: That’s exciting. Well, hopefully this kind of kicks off more of these.

MARISA: Yeah. Agrees.

CLARICE: This becomes a thing in other districts. Nice.


CLARICE: Those are our big winners. After that there are some honorable mentions in all of the categories, but congrats to everybody for thinking what are things that they could change now to improve everything else for tomorrow. I love it.

MARISA: Me, too.

CLARICE: Hey, no bad news today.


CLARICE: Oh, I was really holding my breath. I was waiting for you to be like, well, I did read this thing.

MARISA: No. No. I’m going to keep that inside. I’m just going to bury it deep, deep down inside.

CLARICE: Well, stay tuned next week folks. Who knows, we may find something’s endangered.

MARISA: Don’t get me started.

CLARICE: On that note, you guys have a great weekend. If you have any questions, comments, topics — what are some adjustments that you guys have done in your homes? Are there any small things that you’ve done to be more energy efficient or eco-friendly? Actually, that’s a good one. I want to put that up on our Instagram.

[0:22:06] MARISA: Do it.

CLARICE: What are some tweaks and changes that you’re doing? I’d love to hear them. Send them in. I kind of want to — if we can read them next week or the week after, I think that would be really cool to share with the audience. That would be fun and maybe tips that you’re doing could help somebody else make adjustments and we can all inspire each other.


CLARICE: Hit us up on social media. We are at Desautel Browning Law on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. If you want to watch our videos, they are up on YouTube. If you want to e-mail us, it is Help@DesautelESQ.com. And with that I’ve nailed the outro. You guys have a great week.

MARISA: Bye, everybody.

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