Friday, July 13, 2007

Energy "Meeting"—Part Deux

Aright, as S. already mentioned, this "meeting" was treated as more of a presentation than a true meeting. It started several minutes late, and ran considerably beyond the times stated on the agenda. (The agenda, I point out, also had almost half of the speakers' email addresses listed incorrectly.) I truly did not get very much out of the meeting (and halfway through I zoned out so badly that I honestly have little to no memory of an entire 15 minutes of one of the speaker's presentations: my apologies dude, but you were not destined to be a great public speaker...) I did, however, jot down some notes (in the interest of keeping myself, well, interested), which I will share. These notes are not particularly useful to anyone, necessarily, but I found them worth jotting.

Jim Boone (staff counsel of the Public Service Commission—he's the guy that came back, with back-up of Phil Vandeerheyden—Assistant Director of Economics and Policy Analysis of the Md Public Service Commission) was the first to speak. He mostly just restated the stuff he said last time, before turning it over to Phil Vandeerheyden, who didn't have anything terribly new to say either, but did go into a little more detail. I consider the highlight of their presentation the part where an audience member walked out in disgust after not getting his question answered.

I learned about the Maryland Office of the People's Counsel from the second speaker, Paula Carmody (People's Counsel.) You can read more about what they do on their website, but, as a start, they will help people who have complaints against their utility services (gas, electric, phone, water), which is nice to know. Quick note here: I consider this to be the only useful information that I got from this meeting.

Izzy Patoka, Executive Director of Community Initiatives spoke about what the aforementioned office does. I'm really not sure why he was there...

Next up to speak was Senator Rob Garagiola, (who lives in Germantown, although I'm not sure why he mentioned that...) His district covers from Bethesda up to the Frederick County line (he was also, according to Rona Kramer's representative, "Kristen"—who was very quiet, did not introduce herself, and sat in the back— late due to traffic. I'll bet. That's a long way to drive.) He also, apparently, serves on the Senate finance committee, and the only earthly reason I can see for his being at this meeting was his involvement with a bill (Senate Bill 595) that apparently requires the energy companies to purchase a certain percentage solar (umm...wouldn't that be MORE expensive for consumers?). That doesn't really explain why he was there, but there is an energy connection, at least. He was very pro-solar. Oh, and his favorite word is, apparently, incentivize (can also be used--and was--in the form: incentivizing). Now that's a doozie.

The next speaker was Chris Rice, Program Manager for a bunch of things for the MEA, including biomass, and transportation. He actually (and public speaking by the way is not this guy's strength...) contradicted what several other speakers had stated. You see, several people said that by decreasing our energy consumption, we would effectively "force" energy companies to lower their rates. What Chris Rice said actually rang a little more true. He said that while that might lower YOUR bill, he can't really see that it would have the effect of actually lowering cost. He also mentioned that he was sorry the Senator had to leave (he had "another thing" to get to, and rushed off—after taking up quite a bit of meeting he can't have been in too much of a rush...) and proceeded to say nothing but good things about the Senator's energy initiatives. He talked about liquid fuel and transportation (What happened to electricity? Where did cars come into this? Is Citizens Involved trying to take on gas pricing now?) and the need to improve distribution infrastructure. Right. (By this point in the meeting about half of the audience had either left or keeled over) Oh, and he mentioned "cellulosic ethanol" research (that is, research on how much wood waste, etc Maryland has available to turn into seems they're formulating a report of available resources). It gets better, though. Apparently the technology to do that isn't really available yet... but by george, when it is, Maryland will be ready! (My notes started getting a little bit sketchy by this point in the meeting...)

Next, Susan Kirby from Montgomery County's Department of Environmental Protection came up to speak to us about "Clean Energy Rewards" which, quite frankly, I wasn't terribly interested in. At least she was a fairly good public speaker and woke me back up. I actually don't seem to have many notes on her presentation, although there was a Price Comparison Worksheet that I picked up. I also recall she explained how Renewable Energy Certificates work by saying that they are like buying a stock or buying into a company.

Ummm, what else? Well, the woman from the Solar energy company (Capital Sun Group) came back to speak and told us how the company offers assessments for $200 a pop (less if you talk your neighbors into getting one, too.) And we finished up with a couple of questions, that I actually don't really remember. We didn't stay through all of the questions and frankly, I think it shows incredible perseverance that we made it through all of the speakers.

In summary, those are 2 hours of my life that I will never get back. I kind of wish we had gone to the (open to the public) East County Citizens Advisory board meeting (held at the same time...which of course I didn't know until the next day...) instead. At least they encourage questions and comments, unlike some "meetings."

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