HYANNIS — State Rep. Randy Hunt, R-East Sandwich, is proposing more oversight of the regional agency that buys power in bulk for thousands of customers on Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard.
Hunt is on the agenda Monday for the meeting of the Cape Light Compact's board and is expected to discuss his proposals with members.
The board had asked for the meeting with Hunt to better understand his recent filing in the state Legislature that sought annual reporting by the compact and similar multi-town agencies to member towns, compact administrator Maggie Downey said Friday.
“The board was perplexed,” Downey said. “We do that every year.”
The compact, which serves about 200,000 customers in 21 towns across the Cape and Islands, according to its website, is the state’s only multi-town “aggregator,” buying electricity in bulk from competitive suppliers on behalf of residents and businesses.
“I know he had proposed something that we had already done,” said Robert Schofield, of Bourne, vice chairman of the compact's board. “That’s why we asked him to sit down with us. This has opened up a wider focus on this whole thing.”
In 2015, the state Department of Public Utilities approved the compact’s revised operational plan, bringing an end to a regulatory review that included scrutiny from the state attorney general’s office and critics of the regional energy agency.
At a meeting with the Times editorial board Thursday, Hunt said he wants the compact's board to be elected directly rather than appointed — as is currently the case — by elected leaders such as a selectmen or county commissioners.
“The ratepayer would probably like to say I'd like to control that board and have it work for us rather than work for the towns that put the people on the board to be the governing body,” he said.
In particular, he criticized how the compact offers energy efficiency programs, such as solar equipment, to towns for free that businesses and residents must chip in for.
Towns “don’t have to put any skin into the game at all” for the benefits they receive, he said.
Ratepayers lack any kind of control or say over how the compact or the Cape & Vineyard Electric Cooperative use ratepayer money, Hunt said. The compact had previously provided the majority of support for the cooperative, which was formed in 2007 to pursue renewable energy projects for its members, but has now stopped doing so.
Hunt said he would like to see the first election of the board take place in November 2018 but, in the meantime, he would like to see more oversight by the Department of Public Utilities.
He also wants to rein in an exception in the Open Meeting Law that allows the compact to decide what information in executive session meeting minutes it feels should be withheld because of what the board decides is a competitive disadvantage. Hunt said that, while he understands the need to protect proprietary information, he would like to see the release of executive session minutes within a certain time frame or a periodic report to a state watchdog agency, such as the attorney general's office, about why minutes can’t be released.
“This is going to be something I’ll file for the next session,” Hunt said Thursday.
Hunt, who is a member of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, said he has spoken with Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton about his concerns, as well as other members of the Cape delegation.
Downey said Friday she was unaware of Hunt’s proposals for the next legislative session. Schofield, also unaware of Hunt's proposals, said the Legislature-approved charter of the compact is what determines the board is appointed rather than elected.
Downey defended her agency’s financial incentives for public sector customers as cost-effective and legal. Downey said that at Hunt’s request she was prepared to show on Monday the agency's release of executive session meeting minutes.
The board released the 2014 executive session meeting minutes in the past few days, she said, explaining that doing so was delayed by the focus in 2015 on getting the revised operational plan approved by the state.
“We never got to them,” she said. “We were not timely in approving them.