Local progress on renewable energy, community power, and electric vehicle charging initiatives

  • Electric meter energy power Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/15/2021 3:29:21 PM

Voting day on Peterborough’s warrant, May 11, draws ever closer, and proponents of Article 11, which commits the town to 100 percent renewable energy, are rallying. Their efforts were bolstered after helping to squash a legislative threat to community power, a major element of the plan to expand renewable use, earlier this year. The town’s electric vehicle charging station is also expected to come online this summer.

Article 11 seeks to commit Peterborough to transition to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030 and 100 percent renewable heat and transportation by 2050 in a non-legally binding agreement. It stipulates completing an action plan by December 2022.

An upcoming virtual panel discussion seeks to help residents visualize how the move toward renewable energy might look, and unpack the dense topics of renewable energy, Monadnock Sustainability Hub program manager Annie Henry said. It’ll feature speakers from Keene and Hanover, two communities already working on the same goals despite differences in size and organization style, she said. “There are other places that are doing this and are being successful with it,” Peterborough Energy Action organizer Dori Drachman said, and the town can use those examples. The panel is scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m., and details and registration are available at www.PeterboroughEnergyAction.org.

Local renewables advocates collectively sighed with relief after state legislators passed an amended community power bill in early March that abandoned much of the “poison pill” language in the original HB 315, introduced in February. “HB 315 was putting us in a hard position,” Peterborough Energy Committee Chair Emily Manns said, since the Community Power Act can be a major asset in furthering renewable energy goals equitably, as previously reported. Outcry from community power advocates, including locals who signed petitions and testified, led to the legislature’s overhaul of the bill. There’s a clear way forward for Peterborough’s renewable energy goals once again as a result, Manns said.

HB 315 caused some consternation in Harrisville, where a community power agreement is up for a vote at this year’s Town Meeting. “We imagined we might have to pull the warrant article,” Harrisville Select Board Chair Andrea Hudson said. “It was a crushing deal to have worked all that year and then have the tables turned on us,” she said, but considered its current status a success, although there’s more work to do. Hudson is co-chair of the town’s electrical aggregation committee, which started work on a community power agreement a year ago.

What should other towns know about pursuing a community power agreement? “It’s a complicated topic,” Hudson said, comparing the introduction of community power to that of bonding for broadband internet, another relatively new option for municipalities that takes lots of community outreach to explain its complexity. Committee members leaned hard on the Community Power Coalition of New Hampshire for technical assistance and guidance to fully grasp the ins and outs of the legislation themselves, Hudson said, and then had to distill the information for community members who don’t necessarily have an hour a week to spend on the subject. The committee received some understandably anxious questions during community conversations, Hudson said, such as who would be responsible for repairing power lines after an outage (Eversource is still responsible for line maintenance as community power is about the energy supply, she said). Some Harrisville residents are interested in community power in order to get the absolute lowest price, regardless of energy source, while others want to invest in more renewables, she said, and the town’s proposed agreement allows options for both those interests. Harrisville’s agreement also stores funds that will stabilize prices from year to year, and could eventually enable local home weatherization projects, training for local tradespeople, or municipal projects, she said.

Peterborough expects to have a municipal electric vehicle charger in the Riverwalk parking lot by this summer, Drachman said, after voters approved the installation at last year’s Town Meeting. The Peterborough Energy Committee received about six proposals for the installation work and expects to select a contractor very soon,  she said.

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