Catherine Wygant Fossett, Executive Director of the Boothbay Harbor Region Chamber of Commerce in Maine, is the kind of person who can assess a brewing crisis and see opportunity for growth. Her heavily tourist-reliant community is served by one increasingly overtaxed high-power electric transmission line. Upgrading it would cost ratepayers as much as $18 million in increased electric rates.
So when officials proposed a pilot program for so-called non-transmission alternatives to upgrading the power line — essentially various forms of efficiency at a projected cost of $6 million – Fossett jumped into action. She suggested that GridSolar LLC, the company hired to run the pilot program, join her chamber and, in return, she promised, she would turn on her “matchmaking skills” and “put on the PR engine to start educating members about the project.”
At a recent chamber dinner, Fossett revealed that she connected more than 80 local businesses to the pilot project. She also discussed how she helped another efficiency company called Ice Energy give away 32 new air conditioning units with high-tech storage batteries made of ice. The units cost $32,000 a piece and combined can offset 250 kilowatts of capacity or roughly the equivalent of unplugging 75 window air conditioners each afternoon.
According to a recent article in a local newspaper, the owner of a local car wash thought he was being scammed when he was approached by Ice Energy and asked if he’d like a free new air conditioner. But when he called the chamber to check up on the Ice Energy, he found that the company’s offer was for real and that the “chamber was in on the deal … it was having a box installed.”
Fossett says that more than 70 different efficiency measures have been implemented to date adding that this is the first summer season since the improvements have been made with results still being evaluated and tested. She calls the efficiency program a “crowning achievement” for her and her team of three at the Boothbay chamber.