Community Power advocates urge action in advance of “poison pill” legislature in the house on

  • The Community Power Law, NH SB 286, allows municipalities to purchase electricity on behalf of their residents. Multiple municipalities can unite to purchasing energy at still lower costs, and participating communities can opt to increase and diversify their green energy portfolios. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Photo/Meter-TreaterThe electric meter is installed over the top of a base-type surge suppressor.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/10/2021 7:20:06 PM

Local advocates of community power and renewable energy are decrying HB 315, a bill that would gut the Community Power Law, which granted municipalities the ability to purchase electricity on behalf of their residents when it went into effect in late 2019.

Besides the appeal of lowering energy bills, the Community Power Law is central to many town’s initiatives to expand their renewable energy portfolio, Peterborough resident and Monadnock Sustainability Hub program manager Annie Henry said. HB 315 goes before the New Hampshire House Science, Technology & Energy Committee on Friday.

HB 315, nicknamed the “Monopoly Protection Act” by community power advocates, scales back much of the innovation afforded by the 2019 law, jacks up the cost, and adds multiple layers of obstacles to implement a community power agreement – which is already such a complicated process that none have yet been completed throughout the state, Henry said. “This would… throw a wrench into multiple communities and their plans to source their energy differently,” she said.

The bill was written at the behest of the utilities in an effort to maintain the status quo and stifle competition, according to an analysis by Lebanon Assistant Mayor Clifton Below, who wrote the original Community Power bill.

Temple’s Renewable Energy Task Force Chair Rob Wills said he’d already written to his local representatives about the bill. A Community Power could offset the cost of the municipal solar array the Task Force wants to install in Temple, he said, but aside from some altruistic individuals, Wills said he couldn’t see renewable energy efforts in town gaining much momentum without the lower costs afforded by the unaltered Community Power Law. “It’s a sad case when utilities and money seems to overrule the natural spirit of New Hampshire, which is “Live Free or Die. We should have a choice,” he said.

“This is really important, even though it’s complicated,” Peterborough Energy Action organizer Dori Drachman said. PEA’s quest to transition Peterborough to 100 percent renewable energy use relies heavily on the Community Power Law, she said, as would any other small town in New Hampshire that wanted to invest in local renewables for lack of other available options. 

Towns wouldn’t just lose the cost savings if HB 315 progresses, Drachman said, it would disallow net metering, and eliminate the ability of anyone currently enrolled in an energy assistance program from helping to pursue renewables. Currently, community power agreements allow residents to support their town’s transition to renewable energy even if they can’t afford to install solar panels on their own home. “We… are really committed to this transition being as equitable as possible,” she said, and the standing Community Power Law is “by far” the most equitable way to do it. Even if NH House members aren’t interested in renewable energy expansion, they should be swayed by the notion that municipalities should be able to choose their own energy supply, Drachman said, “and having local control over where their energy dollars go.”

Concerned Granite Staters can weigh in by signing a petition against HB 315, Henry said, or write directly to the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee at HouseScienceTechnologyandEnergy@leg.state.nh.us

Residents can also sign up for the committee’s Feb. 12 Zoom hearing at 3 p.m. and indicate that they oppose HB 315 in advance, Henry said, by filling out the online form indicating their status as opposing the bill and whether they wish to testify during the meeting. 

There are other anti-clean energy bills on the horizon, Peterborough Energy Committee Chair Emily Manns said. HB 213 would cut the state’s renewable portfolio standard from 25 percent in 2025 to 8.8 percent, crushing demand on local renewable energy projects. Biomass projects are most affected, but solar projects could be too, she said. 

Three other bills are HB 549, which would drastically reduce NHSaves and energy efficiency, HB 225, which would lower payments for net metering projects, and HB 351, which would also decimate funding for energy efficiency, at least for two years, by moving oversight of the systems benefit charge from the PUC to the legislature, Manns said.




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

20 Grove St.
Peterborough, NH 03458
603-924-7172

 

© 2020 Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy