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Under New Community Power Law, N.H. Towns Can Develop Electric Aggregation Programs

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Legislation that goes into effect Tuesday will allow cities and towns across New Hampshire to create community power programs, in which electric customers will be automatically enrolled.

NHPR's Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Henry Herndon from Clean Energy NH about the law and how communities can participate.

(Editor's note: below is a partial transcript from the NHPR interview that has been lightly edited for clarity.)

Henry, can you explain what community power means? What does this look like?

Community power. So the community power law essentially gives local governments -- cities, towns, counties -- greater choice in sourcing their energy. And really what I mean by that is it gives these local governments, these communities, the ability to craft a portfolio of energy resources that would then provide power to the residents and businesses in that community.

They could go about entering into a number of different contracts and sourcing their power from a variety of different options. And that would include sort of the typical competitive energy suppliers, which many large energy users, towns, cities, businesses already use, but also some really new and exciting opportunities, such as contracting with existing generators or contracting with new generators. And I'd be happy to talk a little bit about that as well.

Okay, yeah. Let's explain it a little more, because again, we've had choice for a while as a residential consumers, individual consumers, about where the power source comes from through our utilities and most of the state. But how is this different? What changes here?

So really economies of scale and then localizing decision making. So maybe I can give you an example. In this portfolio of energy resources, say the town of Boscawen, just north Concord, sort of small, typical New Hampshire town, say Boscawen forms a community power program, Boscawen Community Power. They could contract for competitive energy. But in addition to that, there is a 2 megawatt hydro dam in Boscawen. And if they wanted to and if the price is right, they could choose to have Boston Community Power purchase energy directly from that local hydrodam. That would be a component of its energy portfolio powering all of the residents and businesses who participate in the program.

Do you have some examples now of towns here in the Granite State that as of today are looking to use community power and to build programs?

So we've heard a lot of interest. We've heard interest from Dover [and] Exeter. The Monadnock Region is very interested -- some of the counties [like] Cheshire County. Probably the community that's furthest ahead is Lebanon and Lebanon Community Power. They've been involved in energy policy for a long time and particularly this piece of legislation. And they're looking to do some really innovative things. They're looking to, again, develop some new energy resources, maybe some large solar in the community. They have a landfill that produces methane and they have appropriated over $2 million, close to $3 million, to develop that landfill into a gas to energy plant.

This is where they cap the landfill and use the methane coming off the landfill itself to power a turbine?

That is correct. And in Lebanon Community Power that project could be one of the components of the energy portfolio for the residents and businesses of Lebanon, and perhaps even become an exporter of power if they could generate enough power.

For many radio listeners throughout New Hampshire, Rick Ganley is the first voice they hear each weekday morning, bringing them up to speed on news developments overnight and starting their day off with the latest information.
Mary McIntyre is a senior producer at NHPR.
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