More than 20 local governments sent a letter to the state’s Public Utilities Commission last week asking it to develop rules and regulations that would support community power programs.
These programs allow municipalities and counties to purchase power on behalf of residents and businesses within their jurisdiction. Advocates say this is one way to get more energy from renewable resources, and at possibly lower costs to ratepayers.
Utilities would still be the ones to distribute that energy.
Henry Herndon is with Clean Energy New Hampshire and works with local governments on community power. He says this letter from Community Power New Hampshire, a newly forming non-profit, asks the PUC to make a point of including cities and towns in the rulemaking process.
“It’s often not the cities and towns that have limited resources and time, who are able to voice their perspective and it’s those community, and it's really those communities whose perspective is most important when implementing these rules,” he said.
Herndon says the regulatory rules that the PUC establishes will determine how well community power aggregation works in New Hampshire.
“We call on you to refrain from burdening use with heavy-handed regulations,” the collective of towns wrote in its letter.
Some of the regulations that will need to be hammered out include access to customer data and when these programs can buy power.
Several communities, including Lebanon, Keene and Hanover have plans in the works to set up community power programs next year.
April Salas is the sustainability director for Hanover, which has a goal of transitioning to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030.
She says this letter is the municipalities’ way of letting the PUC know that there’s interest across the state in making community power work.
“What we’re looking for is an equal playing field,” she said. “We should be given the same support as the investor-owned utilities or the large commercial customers that are able to do this one their own.”
Salas says she and others on the town’s electric aggregation committee are drafting a plan to present to voters for approval next town meeting.
“Community power is a bi-partisan and market-oriented approach to realizing a more innovative and sustainable energy system for our smaller customers, our cities and towns, and for our state as a whole,” the group wrote.