Implementing the Renewable Energy Plan Requires Coordination

· Monadnock Ledger-Transcript - PREP Talks

by Bob Haring-Smith, PREP Co-Coordinator

Peterborough is committed to making a transition to 100% renewable energy. The good news is that there is a growing array of options to facilitate that transition for electricity, heating and cooling, and transportation as new technology is created. The additional good news is that there is lots of funding to help us over the hill of the initial cost of weatherization and new equipment and into the green valley of lower ongoing energy expenses. The challenge is that sorting through those technology options and finding the credits, rebates, and other financial savings for which one qualifies can be daunting.

Helping all of us understand our options in order to find the best means of lowering our energy costs is what makes hiring a Town Energy Coordinator a crucial part of the Peterborough Renewable Energy Plan (PREP).

The essence of the Energy Coordinator’s job is to work with the Town and its residents, businesses, and other organizations to implement the Peterborough Renewable Energy Plan. Achieving that big goal entails tasks such as these:

  • Serving as a resource for residents and businesses interested in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, helping them get the information and cost savings they need for effective, economical completion of those projects
  • Overseeing municipal energy efficiency and renewable energy projects such as Community Solar arrays on capped landfills
  • Working with fellow Town employees when opportunities arise to improve municipal energy efficiency and use of renewable energy, such as during new construction, building renovations, or vehicle fleet upgrades
  • Managing community outreach and incentive programs such as Solarize, Weatherize, and Heat Smart to expand the use of solar arrays and improve buildings’ use of energy, thereby lowering energy costs
  • Facilitating energy audit and labeling programs
  • Measuring and tracking renewable energy metrics in town
  • Staying up to date on relevant funding opportunities for all sectors of Peterborough
  • Writing grant proposals to fund energy efficiency measures and renewable energy projects

We know that we can lower the operating costs of buildings and vehicles by using energy more efficiently and reducing the use of fossil fuel. The sticking point is often the initial outlay to implement energy efficiencies and switch fuels. With an Energy Coordinator working for Peterborough, all of us will have someone to whom we can turn for help in making these changes while minimizing our out-of-pocket expenditures.

The position of Energy Coordinator is becoming increasingly common in small towns in New England and elsewhere. The first full-time town Energy Coordinator in Vermont was hired by Hartford, Vermont, in 2017 and saved the Town enough money in his first seven months on the job to cover his entire year’s salary. But, as the Hartford Director of Planning observed, “It’s about more than just saving money for the Town. . . . It’s also important to recognize that there is a community out there who may not know much about, or have the resources to make their own out-of-pocket energy more efficient. Having an energy coordinator is about providing services to our community.” The first Hamden, Connecticut energy coordinator, also hired in 2017, was likewise successful in saving money for the Town while providing valuable services to residents and businesses there, “paying dividends to the town,” as one article on her work described it.

Often, towns that hire energy coordinators have volunteer energy committees that can do some of the work that energy coordinators do, but the volunteers have day jobs or are retirees. They cannot devote the time needed to stay abreast of the broad and changing array of technologies and resources in the energy realm that a professional can. The PREP Team in Peterborough stands ready to assist the Energy Coordinator in any way we can, but we will rely on his or her knowledge and expertise to lead the implementation of our plan.

Other Town staff have no spare time to take on additional duties, so we cannot shoehorn an Energy Coordinator’s role into an existing position. In fact, an Energy Coordinator might assume the energy-related portions of other Town employees’ duties, leading to improved service in all Town operations.

In short, hiring a Town Energy Coordinator will help all of us save money and act more quickly to enjoy the economic and health benefits of reduced fossil fuel consumption.

As we reach the end of 2022, which is PREP's deadline for completing the plan, we look forward to engaging Peterborough residents and business owners as partners in the plan's creation and eventual implementation. Over the next few weeks, you'll be invited to public hearings, to be held in late November and early December, and will receive an invitation to take an online survey. We encourage you to participate however you can to share your thoughts and concerns about the exciting transition we will be making together toward a future powered by clean, renewable energy.