Renewable energy decisions ahead for Peterborough

  • Solar panels Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • Solar panels Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 12/7/2020 3:43:06 PM

Voters could put Peterborough on a track towards 100 percent clean energy for residents and businesses by 2050 at the next Town Meeting, via a warrant article presented to the Select Board on Tuesday.

If passed, the article would commit Peterborough to a similar timeline as a resolution that recently passed in Keene: a clean energy plan by the end of 2022, pursuit of clean electricity by 2030, and clean heating and transportation by 2050, Peterborough Energy Action member Dori Drachman said on Tuesday, introducing the initiative.

The commitment is based on “Ready for 100%,” a national campaign promoted by the Sierra Club. “One in four Americans lives in a location that is already committed to this goal,” Drachman said. Hanover, Plainfield, Cornish, Concord, and Keene are municipalities within the state that have already committed, she said.

A community commitment is imperative to stave off the most severe impacts of climate change, Drachman said, as individual efforts aren’t enough to drop greenhouse gas emissions fast enough to avoid the worst-case scenarios that would come with the Earth warming another 1.5 degrees Celsius. “There’s no time to lose,” she said, in halving emissions by 2030 and getting to net-zero emissions by 2050, which would prevent the worst potential effects of climate change. “There are many ways to get there,” she said. “This is one way.”

Granite Staters stand to see their state’s climate change to resemble that of North Carolina in the next couple decades, she said, in addition to accelerated storm damage, threats to wildlife and human health, and the tourism impacts of shorter ski seasons, drab foliage, and maple sugaring and crop yield declines. Climate refugees, such as people moving to the area to escape wildfires in other parts of the country, could also affect New Hampshire’s dynamics, she said.

Peterborough is a prime candidate for the initiative because it’s already a leader in municipal carbon reduction, Drachman said, citing the town’s existing renewable energy initiatives, including the municipal solar array, pellet boilers in most municipal buildings, LED streetlights, and policies for green purchasing and vehicle idling. The initiative would support solar and wind energy, small scale hydroelectric, biomass for heating (with an eye for sustainable forestry methods), but no nuclear energy, she said. A community power agreement would be an important part of the transition to green energy, she said, and the Peterborough Energy Commission plans to present on the town’s options for such an agreement in the coming months, Drachman said. Such an agreement would allow the town to choose the sources of its electricity and opt into certain percentages of locally generated energy, or purchase offshore wind energy when it becomes available to the state.

Peterborough Energy Action is separate from the Peterborough Energy Commission, she said, describing the PEA as a policy-oriented grassroots campaign and singularly devoted to the town’s adoption of a renewable energy commitment, whereas the PEC is involved in multiple initiatives in town. “This is taking up so much time that there would be nothing else that PEC could be putting their energy toward if they were taking this up,” she said, although the PEC is very supportive to the cause, and there’s overlap in membership between the two organizations. PEA formed in the fall of 2019.

How much would a clean energy plan cost the town? There’s no template for the plan, Drachman said, and its level of detail, the expertise of the people involved, and other factors would affect the ultimate cost.

The purpose of the plan is to make sure the town keeps to its commitment, she said, outlining how to get to 2030 and 2050 goals.

Keene paid a consultant $35,000 to develop a plan, Drachman said, but Peterborough stands to benefit from the findings from towns that have already completed the process. For instance, Keene’s consultant recommended a community power plan as a first step, she said.

Residents can visit for more information, and attend one of the upcoming community dialogues, the first of which is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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Peterborough, NH 03458


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