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We need to keep turning up the heat on energy savings

President Obama’s Climate Action Plan is a greatly needed step in the right direction. And the EPA’s carbon emission standards for new power plants are critical to reducing carbon pollution. It’s encouraging that the President and the EPA are moving forward.

Here in New Hampshire, local energy efficiency funding for towns and schools is another important step toward reducing carbon pollution as well as a means of saving money for our communities. The Legislature passed a bill last spring that requires up to $2 million dollars from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to be reserved annually for New Hampshire’s town and school energy efficiency and conservation projects.

Towns and schools — employees, taxpayers, and students — will benefit. An analysis of 47 towns completed several years ago showed that these municipalities spent almost $10 million annually on municipal energy costs, not including schools. The average annual energy expenditure for the 47 municipalities was almost $200,000. Municipal buildings made up 54 percent of the costs and streetlights 10 percent.

For households — a back of the envelope calculation, using annual energy costs and the number of households for each town, indicated that the average cost per household to pay for municipal energy use was $81.76 (up to as high as $200) per year – not including schools, where the average annual cost for energy per student was $241.

The bill passed by the legislature, SB123, requires RGGI funds to be used for local municipal energy projects that make sense locally, provided the projects can show a positive energy efficiency impact. Given the intent of the legislation, new boilers and insulation projects — not just lighting projects — should be eligible.

A concentrated effort using RGGI funds to pay for local municipal energy efficiency and conservation efforts will have a positive impact on residential and business property taxpayers. But the work of our state representatives is not over.

Support from state representatives, regional planning commissions and utilities is needed to make sure town managers, local energy committees, and select board members are aware of the grant opportunities and understand how to prepare to take advantage of this funding. Lower energy consumption means lower operating costs and benefits to taxpayers.

A couple of worthwhile actions would be to call your utility company and use this money – it belongs to you, and it is the responsibility of all of us to put it to good use. Another would be to call Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte to ask them to support the president’s climate action plan.

Beverly Edwards is a Temple resident.

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