Wilton looks to form community power group

  • Wilton Town Hall Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/24/2021 12:30:58 PM

Wilton is exploring community power through a new model recently approved by the state Legislature that gives towns greater choice in where they get their energy.

On Nov. 1, the Wilton Select Board voted unanimously to establish an official Community Power Aggregation Committee to consider new municipal power opportunities. The town is seeking volunteers for the committee itself.

Most electricity users are purchasing their electricity through the default, standard rate set by their utility company, according to Wilton Selectman and state Rep. Kermit Williams.

“About 70 percent of New Hampshire gets the default rate from their power company, which can be a good deal, or it could not be a good deal,” Williams said.

Community power aggregation is a way for a group of ratepayers to combine their electricity usage and negotiate how they receive power – potentially allowing for favorable rates and purchasing power from specific sources such as sustainable energy producers.

Williams said now is the ideal time to discuss community power aggregation for Wilton, as energy costs are predicted to be on the rise with the cost of natural gas – the main energy production source for New England.

Electricity provider Unitil recently announced its rates will be increasing about 60% this winter. Unitil’s new rate, 17.5 cents per kWh for residential customers, is expected to go into effect Dec. 1. New Hampshire Electric Cooperative is also expecting a 17% increase.

Eversource is expected to set its new rates in February, and Williams said he expects to see an increase in their electricity costs as well. That’s why Williams said a community power group is in the best interests of the town.

“This will put us in a position to better negotiate our price,” Williams said.

If a community power group is established in Wilton, it wouldn’t be compulsory – there would be an opt-in or opt-out option. There is also the possibility of multiple tiers, such as one that emphasizes renewable-energy sourcing, and one that provides the maximum savings, depending on the priorities of each individual consumer.

“I’d like to see us offer both, so that Wilton residents have the best chance at the best deal for whatever option best suits their needs,” Williams said.

In order to form a community power aggregation group, the committee would, with assistance from a consultant, come up with a formal plan to present to Town Meeting for a vote. Williams said with a potential steep increase in the cost of electricity expected next year, he hopes to have that plan in place in time for a warrant article to present to voters by March 2022, though he acknowledged there was not much time to put in the work between now and then.

“It will be a tight schedule, but we have been in contact with two consultants who came in and made presentations [to the Select Board], and both said it was possible. We will have to be expeditious in moving forward,” Williams said.

Residents of Wilton who are interested in becoming a member of the Community Power Aggregation Committee can fill out a form online, available on the wiltonnh.gov website, and either email it to Wilton Town Administrator Nick Germain at wiltonta@wiltonnh.gov or print it and drop off a copy at the Wilton Town Hall. All forms must be submitted by Dec. 7.  For questions, contact Germain at 603-654-9451.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.

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