The Renewable Energy Plan in a Nutshell

· PREP News and Events

By Bob Haring-Smith, PREP Co-Coordinator

The PREP Team is in sight of its end-of-year deadline to produce the initial plan for Peterborough to convert entirely to renewable energy over the next 30 years.

To finish, we need feedback from residents and business owners in Peterborough. You will find the current draft of the plan at There, too, is a link to a survey through which you can record your thoughts. Two public hearings, which you can attend in person or via Zoom, provide another opportunity to hear about and comment on the plan. Full details, including links for Zoom registration, are on the homepage.

The plan’s overall strategy can be expressed simply: Maximize energy efficiency, increase renewable electricity generation, and electrify everything. The net effect will be to lower the cost of heating, cooling, and lighting our buildings, of operating our vehicles, and of refrigerating and cooking our food, among other activities. These changes will greatly reduce fossil fuel combustion, thereby improving air quality both indoors and out, as well as fighting climate change.

No matter what energy you use, maximizing energy efficiency will lower your energy costs. Often, with existing rebates and incentives, you can borrow to cover the cost of weatherizing your home and pay less for your energy and the loan combined than you had for energy alone before the weatherization.

Peterborough does generate some hydroelectric power and may be able to increase it, but we are looking primarily at solar power to generate more renewable electricity here. Residents unable to install a solar array where they live might still subscribe to community solar projects, with new arrays perhaps sited on the Town’s capped landfills. Peterborough’s Community Power plan should begin operation in the first half of 2023 and will draw increasingly on renewable electricity generated elsewhere on the electric grid.

Electrifying everything means converting energy uses now relying on fossil fuels to depend instead on electricity. In the current state of technology, that would mean replacing oil or propane furnaces or boilers nearing their ends of life with extraordinarily efficient, cold-weather electric heat pumps. which also provide efficient cooling during warm weather. Cars running on gasoline could be replaced by electric vehicles. Smaller devices like gasoline-powered lawn mowers and leaf blowers that are notorious sources of air and noise pollution can be replaced by electric equivalents that run much more cleanly and quietly.

The outcome will be an efficient, electric-powered community relying more on local resources and contributing little or nothing to pollution and climate change.

That’s the strategy and the vision. How will the renewable energy plan help us get there?

For a start, it lists actions that directly target energy efficiency, generation, and electrification in order to channel effort in each of those realms. Beyond that, the plan recognizes that reaching Our Town’s goals depends on voluntary actions taken by individuals and businesses here, so it encourages those actions through education and incentives.

A big part of the plan is ensuring that residents and business owners have the information they need about renewable energy alternatives when the time comes to replace a car, an appliance, or a dying boiler or furnace. Between now and our goal year of 2050, we are all likely to face every one of those situations. A website that stays up to date with changing technology, a local expert providing consultation and conducting information sessions, and demonstration events like Drive Electric expos are among the ways to convey this information.

Furthermore, we will want the latest information about incentives, credits, and rebates that can lower the initial cost of moving to cheaper, renewable energy. The plan promotes developing financial resources to support weatherization, especially, by creating a clean energy fund, connecting with a green bank, or working with local banks on affordable loan programs. Group purchasing efforts such as Solarize or Weatherize campaigns can also help lower costs.

Several actions in the plan draw on ideas that other small towns have found to be promising, but we need to know more about. Rather than recommending their implementation, we urge careful study and analysis to determine if they will be helpful and practical in Peterborough.

Finally, the plan encourages the Town to continue to develop workable, cost-effective energy policies and practices, as it has done for more than twenty years, by taking steps to make its own use of energy more efficient and reliant on renewable resources.

As you review the current draft of the plan and offer your thoughts, remember that this is the initial plan for getting Peterborough to 100% renewable energy use. It will be revised in the next month based on your feedback and revised many more times over the next 30 years to reflect new technologies, the changing economics of renewable energy, and what we learn as we implement the plan. We hope that, with your help, this first version will get us off to a good start.