Francestown appoints committee to study community power

By AIDAN BEAROR

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 08-28-2023 12:00 PM

The Francestown Select Board has established Community Power Committee (CPC), a step toward giving the town the ability to negotiate electricity prices as a municipality with the goal of lowering the cost of utilities and increasing renewable energy.

Local towns that have approved community power include Peterborough, Dublin, Jaffrey, Hancock and Wilton. Participating municipalities can bundle their buying power to negotiate with utility companies, and individuals may also choose to opt out at any point and select their own electricity supplier. According to the announcement for formation of Francestown’s committee, electricity in the Monadnock region is “both supplied and delivered to homes by Eversource, although individual customers can choose from an array of suppliers. However, in the absence of collective action, electricity consumers in New Hampshire pay the fifth highest rates in the nation.” 

The committee is comprised of three members with over 40 years in Francestown – Sue Jonas, Jim Pietrovito and Jim Tovey – and three newer residents in Ari Levine, Ben Pollak and Kevin Pobst. They were appointed in late July and are working toward bringing and article to Town Meeting in 2024.

Levine who established the Harrisville Electric Aggregation Committee, equivalent to a CPC, is leading the committee. He is a 37-year corporate lawyer.

“I've worked on solar projects, really all over the country,” said Levine. “Everything from siting, permitting, power purchase agreements, investment agreements, etc. So I've had an interest in alternative energy really, from the beginning of my career. And that's why when I moved to Asheville, and then Francestown. I was interested in getting involved in these issues. 

Along with lower prices, community power also provides municipalities with bargaining power in incorporating renewable energy into their supply. 

“We're still burning so much fossil fuel, particularly oil [in New Hampshire]. We're incredibly dependent or are affected by a movement in the market, which of course is always up in wintertime,” said Levine. “The nice thing about what CPCs could do, particularly when they band together, either directly or through a broker, is that they have the opportunity to leverage their negotiating power not just for lower electric rates, but also for an increased percentage of renewable rates, which ends up kind of speeding the whole thing [up] because the lower the renewable rate, at least in recent years, the lower the overall rate is.”

 The FCPC will be working over the coming months to survey the town in an effort to establish where the town’s priorities lie in terms of energy consumption. 

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“Our intent is in January or February to have public sessions where anyone in town can come and say an opinion, of course, but also ask them the questions they have about how this all works and how it will expect them to cut their costs and so forth,” said Levine.