Wilton to put community power before voters in March, seeks input

  • Wilton Town Hall Ashley Saari

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/10/2022 1:53:48 PM
Modified: 1/10/2022 1:52:56 PM

Wilton is forging ahead with a plan for a community power program, seeking feedback from the public to finalize a plan to put before Town Meeting in March.

The Wilton Community Power Committee has put out a survey asking residents what their priorities are when it comes to power – such as low cost or using renewable sources – and has scheduled community feedback sessions on Jan. 24.

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. Emily Manns, a community power consultant with Standard Power, said the draft plan currently being worked on by the committee is a modification of a similar plan being considered by other New Hampshire communities, including Keene, Swanzey and Marlborough.

“It’s based on experience with other communities,” Manns said.

In Keene’s model, the power is still delivered to the community through Eversource, which also manages all the billing. It is the source, and thus the cost, of the electricity that changes. The source is chosen by the City of Keene through a bidding process. A similar process would be put in place in Wilton. The idea, Manns said, is to provide users with options.

The program may have an overall goal – increasing resiliency or green-energy usage – but it also allows for individuals to decide how their power is generated.

“Wilton is on a fast track to put a plan before voters, and we’re hoping to have a positive response, because it does provide such robust individual options,” Manns said.

Selectman Kermit Williams, who is a representative on the Community Power Committee, said in Wilton, the current plan is for the program to have each community member select the plan they want – one prioritizing cost, one prioritizing renewable energy and one in the middle -- that’s likely about the same as their current rate, but pulls more from green-energy sources.

“There are people in Wilton for whom [using renewable energy] is important, and we want to make sure those that want to support a green energy future can do that,” Williams said.

If residents don’t chose a plan, there is a “default” rate that will be applied. The priorities of that default rate, Williams said, are going to be “heavily influenced” by the community feedback received over the next few weeks, through the community survey and the public hearings.

If residents are happy with their current service, they can also opt out of the plan.

Williams said the town has not yet received any bids for power, but the anticipation is that rates for 100%t renewable energy will be slightly higher than the current default electricity rate through Eversource, and the cost-savings option a little lower.

Williams said even if voters throw their support behind adopting a community power plan, it may not go into effect immediately after Town Meeting in March. Community power plans must be reviewed and approved by the state’s Public Utilities Commission, but other communities further along in the process are still waiting on the review of their plans, due to ongoing delays at the PUC. Williams said based on that process, if Wilton votes in support of community power, the plan may not be able to be put into effect until later in the year.

The Wilton Community Power Committee has scheduled public hearings for Jan. 24 at noon and 5:30 p.m. to gather input on a community power program for Wilton. A community survey is available online, and a link to the survey can be found on the Community Power Committee page of the town’s website at wiltonnh.gov, or paper copies are available at the Wilton Town Hall and the Wilton Public & Gregg Free Library. A draft plan will be posted on the town website prior to the hearings.

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

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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