By ROWAN WILSON
The petition warrant article approved by Peterborough Town Meeting in 2021 committing the town to a goal of 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030 and 100 percent renewable heat and transportation by 2050 also included a requirement to develop a plan to meet those goals by the end of 2022.
The Peterborough Renewable Energy Planning (PREP) team was formed to develop a plan, and on Tuesday evening, the Peterborough Select Board approved their final proposal."I think Peterborough is a leader in this area and other towns will use us as a model," Select Board member William Kennedy said.
During the meeting, PREP team co-coordinator DoriDrachman shared a series of slides explaining how the renewable energy plan would be implemented, and also addressed ways the team plans to make renewable energy more accessible.
“Most people want to transition to renewables, make homes more energy efficient and to weatherize,” Drachman said, referring to a survey the PREP team sent out to Peterborough residents that showed strong support for the plan. However, even though energy from renewable sources cost 40 percent less than energy from fossil fuels in 2022, the up-front cost can be quite significant, she said.
Drachman addressed ways in which the team would continue to educate and inform the community, through an updated website, energy expos, workshops and by providing guides and checklists that would help make solar installation easier.
Drachman also discussed the Inflation Reduction Act, which was signed into law in August and will offer direct payments or increased tax credits to homeowners. The PREP team plans to create a Clean Energy Fund, which it hopes to make a nonprofit that will offer additional local incentives. The all-volunteer team also proposed hiring a planning assistant/energy coordinator who would work in the town’s Planning Department and would be able to offer assistance and information to people in
terested in switching their energy source to renewables.
Drachman emphasized that the implementation of policies under the renewable energy plan would happen in phases. Policies include the community power plan, incentives for multi-unit and mixed-use development that would increase density in town, leaving undeveloped land undeveloped and a commitment to converting the town’s municipal fleet to electronic vehicles by 2040.
Selectman Bill Taylor asked what would happen if the town did not follow through with switching to a full fleet of electronic vehicles. Drachman responded that the actual conversion would depend on the technology existing. If it is not possible to have electronic dump trucks, for instance, then the town would not be able to follow through with the policy. There would be no penalty, but Drachman said change would be more likely if policies are in place.
Task force recommends provider
After Drachman’s presentation, Tony Cassady, co-chair of the Community Power Task Force, spoke.
Since September 2021, the task force has been working to create a community power plan for Peterborough, which would enable residents to pool their needs and purchase electricity in bulk with more energy coming from renewable sources.
On Tuesday, Cassady recommended Community Power Coalition of New Hampshire as a service provider for the town, and the Select Board approved that recommendation.
The Community Power Task Force completed three rounds of interviews with potential service providers and collected quotes from each candidate. The decision came down to choosing between a broker model or a coalition (joint power agreement) model. The task force decided to choose the coalition model because it is a nonprofit that is member-controlled and includes a cost-sharing agreement that would allow members to choose lower, stable rates.
The task force believes that the coalition will offer rates lower than the Eversource default rate, plus, “at any time before electricity is purchased we can back out of the agreement,” Cassady said.
Taylor noted, “It sounds like they’re pretty confident.”
The task force expects the program to roll out in April or May of 2023. All Peterborough residents who are currently on Eversource electricity will automatically be enrolled in the program, and will have the ability to opt-out if they wish. Those not on Eversource electricity will be able to opt-in to the program, but will not be automatically enrolled.
There will also be different products with varying amounts of energy coming from renewables. Members can choose to opt-up to a product that is 50 percent or even 100 percent renewable. Eversource will still act as the utility moving the electricity once the program begins.