As part of its pilot program with energy technology and financing company BlocPower, the Peterborough Renewable Energy Project (PREP) was
hoping to help 10 to 15 building-owners replace their fossil-fuel
furnaces with electric heat pumps.
Now that the towns of Peterborough and Harrisville have received a $700,000 U.S. Department of Energy grant for building energy efficiency and electrification, that project can be expanded as Peterborough works toward transitioning to 100% renewable sources of electricity by 2030 and for all other energy needs by 2050.
“It really helps kickstart the plan,” said Dori Drachman, who wrote the majority of the grant with fellow PREP co-chair Bob Haring-Smith and said she was originally stunned, then excited, at the news.
Peterborough was one of 12 state, local and tribal governments to win an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) Program Competitive Award. The grant application was originally for $880,000, which Drachman said could have been used for 250 buildings over the next three years, but the smaller amount means that PREP, BlocPower and Harrisville will have to determine the number of buildings.
The grant has three components, one of which is a $3,300 incentive for low-
and moderate-income people to install heat pumps in their homes. Drachman explained that while heat pumps save money over time, the up-front costs are expensive, ranging from a few thousand dollars to more than $20,000 for a more-complicated system. BlocPower is offering lease agreements for heat pumps, and some banks offer lower-interest loans for renewable-energy projects, with the $3,300 potentially allowing for a smaller loan.
Drachman said PREP is also investigating whether the incentive can be combined with incentives expected to be available from the federal Inflation Reduction Act next year.
“That money can be up to $8,000” if they are combined, she said.The grant will also cover an employee from BlocPower to work with Peterborough and Harrisville, and the third piece is workforce training, as Drachman said there are not enough contractors to work on green-energy projects.
“It’s a hard thing throughout the state, but we are in kind of a contractor desert out here,” she said. “We won’t be able to make the
transition if we don’t have enough folks to do the work.”
The training will take the form of two series of courses at MAXT Makerspace
in Peterborough, both of which would end in apprenticeships. In one,
participants can become certified energy auditors and weatherization
specialists through a program offered in partnership with Lakes Region
“They have a really good energy trades program,” Drachman said.
People looking to learn how to install heat pumps can take a program being
offered by local heating, ventilation and air conditioning engineer Doug
Waitt and his company, Design Day Mechanicals.
Drachman said PREP will also work with ConVal, Conant and Mascenic high schools to do outreach about the courses.
“These are good-paying jobs, and they would get to be a part of the climate solution,” she said.