Selectmen Michael Lavery, left, Christopher Swindlehurst, and William Elovirta at Wednesday's event rolling out the town's new charging stations.
BECKET, Mass. — A crowd of about 25 people showed up to a grand opening Wednesday at Town Hall to celebrate Becket becoming the first community in Berkshire County to offer municipally-owned electric vehicle (EV) charging stations.
The town and its utility provider, Eversource Energy, have been working in lockstep for a year to achieve the goal of giving residents, especially the small yet loyal number of EV owners, an alternative to traditional fossil fuels.
Selectman Michael Lavery was a driving force behind the project and is an EV owner himself.
"When I brought the idea for the EV charging stations to the select board last year. We were only expected at most to achieve a 60 percent reimbursement. With the board's approval and the town administrator's consistent efforts, Eversource came back quickly with a design plan and the possibility of full 100 percent payback and reimbursement for the construction, electrical work, and physical hardware," he said. "Becket is a smaller town but we have an active green community. We became an official Green Community a bunch of years ago and have reduced our carbon emissions and energy usage 30 percent. This is just another piece of that pie.
"The EV charging stations made a lot of sense. In a town that has no gas stations, the idea of EV parking and charging might be a little bit of an anomaly but we think it fits where we are going as a town."
According to town officials, the closest gas station is about 9 miles away.
Lavery said charging fee would be about $1 per hour. This fee will cover the cost the town will pay to the company that supports the station's technologically.
The project would not have been possible without Eversource. The utility company has been working with the state since 2018 to make EV charging stations more available to the public. Although they have installed several in Western Massachusetts and more than 100 across the state so far, this is the first municipally-owned site they have completed in the region.
There are a number of EV stations in the Berkshires, hosted or owned by entities such as colleges and supermarkets. Dalton installed two charging stations a few years ago to service its own electric vehicles.
James Cater, electric vehicle program lead for Eversource, was on to celebrate the installation and explain the utility's involvement with the program.
"We were excited to do it. We like to say we're doing this program from Pittsfield to Provincetown and all the towns in between where we provide electric service. To be able to do a municipal location in Berkshire County is important," he said. "It was no cost to the town, which meant a lot obviously. Normally we would bring all the power to the space and leave a stub coming out of the ground. Then the customer would purchase the charging stations and pay to install them.
"In this case, because Becket qualifies as an Environmental Justice Community (EJC), Eversource is also footing the cost for the stations and the installation."
Environmental Justice Communities are defined by the state in three ways: economically, racially, and lingually. In Becket's case, it qualifies economically because the median household income as of the 2010 census was equal to or less than 65 percent of the statewide median.
Cater said Eversource has put 10 percent of its total allocation of money for the charging station project aside for these communities. The money doesn't come from a state or federal program, it's set aside by Eversource to further deplete greenhouse gas emissions and make EV charging more readily available.
"We have $45 million in the program to do probably about 400 sites. Ten percent of that is set aside specifically for these EJC projects," he said.
When Cater says Eversource is committed from Pittsfield to Provincetown he means it.
"As a matter of fact, we are in Truro as well! We hope to electrify that site in the next couple of weeks."
Truro is 231 miles east of Becket and is upwards of a four-hour drive, with no traffic.
Town Administrator William Caldwell said the town's relationship with its utility provider has been a fruitful one.
Eversource project leader James Cater fields questions at the press conference Wednesday morning.
"Our relationship with Eversource has been a good one, and continually improving. In addition to helping fund the charging stations, they've been very helpful in converting all the lights in [Town Hall] over to LED, they helped us with our HVAC system, as well as a couple other projects," he told the crowd. "The partnership has been very beneficial to both parties. We have already had about 40 uses from 20 or so individual users of the EV charging stations."
The crowd headed outside to see a demonstration of the stations after the presentation in the Community Room of Town Hall. Selectman Lavery's own EV was charged at one station while another EV was brought in by Jesse Rudavsky, who is the president of the New England Electric Auto Association.
Aside from the Becket town officials, state Sen. Adam Hinds' district aide AJ Enchill and intern Ronny Brizan were in attendance, along with two dozen or so residents.
Drivers looking for gas in Becket will still be out of luck but if they happen to drive an electric vehicle they will find all the juice they need in front of Town Hall.
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