The Bulletin Board

Hanover becomes third municipality in the state to approve a community power plan

By: - July 14, 2021 10:55 am
An electric meter on the side of a house

The amendment would set a deadline for the Public Utilities Commission to make decisions on future energy efficiency plans. (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)

The town of Hanover will launch its own community power program following a vote at Tuesday’s town meeting, which makes it the third municipality in the state to approve such a program.

Voters gathered at Dewey Field parking lot for a drive-in style town meeting, which residents attended by car.

The approval of the Hanover community power plan follows votes in Keene and Harrisville to move forward with plans of their own.

The Hanover plan will give the town more control over what kind of energy is procured so it can choose a more renewable mix of sources. The town’s goal, set in 2017, is to reach 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. Some energy experts are hopeful that community power will allow municipalities to secure more favorable pricing than utilities that go to market only twice a year.

Traditionally, the utilities make decisions about where to procure power and they then provide this power to customers and bill them accordingly. But community power allows electric customers to band together and choose for themselves where they get power from.

Community power has been a growing conversation in the state, and the focus of one of the main energy bills passed during the recent legislative session, House Bill 315. As introduced, the bill would have posed a challenge to community power initiatives, but it was rewritten during the session. The version heading to the governor’s desk includes several technical clarifications about community power, which was originally enabled by legislation in 2019.   

Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin said that, so far, residents have embraced the town’s sustainability goals, and some have already invested in solar and air source heat pumps.

“This is going to be a very fun project for the coming year,” Griffin said.

The state still has to complete the regulatory rule development to enable these community programs to move forward and begin providing electricity supply. Those rules are expected to be released at some point in 2021, although several important dockets have been held up at the Public Utilities Commission, the state entity charged with writing the community power rules. 

Still, community power advocates are optimistic about the towns that are signing on to move forward with their plans.

“I think it’s a huge step forward for the state,” said Henry Herndon, a consultant who is involved with the Community Power Coalition of New Hampshire.

“It’s a milestone and it’s exciting to see the leadership coming from those communities, hopefully many more to come soon,” he said.  

Hanover joined the coalition in 2019 when it was first forming. 

On Thursday, the city of Lebanon will have a public hearing on its community power plan. 

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee reported on energy and environment for New Hampshire Bulletin. She also previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.