I’ve written two stores recently about New Hampshire towns that will decide at town meetings this month whether to contract for community power. It should have been one story but I missed some and had to make up for it – here’s a mash-up of the stories:
The potential change in how New Hampshire residents buy electricity could come to at least 17 communities at town meeting this month as they decide whether to enter into contracts for community power.
Towns stretching from Milford to Waterville Valley will considering whether to enter a contract with Standard Power, a municipal power broker, and Good Energy, an energy aggregator, while 10 others are deciding whether to do it with the Community Power Coalition of New Hampshire.
In places where the warrants pass, the town will buy electricity on the open market on behalf of residents and small businesses, usually with a savings compared to the default rate for the local utility. Residents can opt out of the program if they want to stay with the utility.
More than a dozen towns, cities and one county have already started the process. Their community power should launch this spring; communities that approve warrants in March should launch later this year.
Large power users such as manufacturers have long been able to buy electricity wholesale rather than from their local power utility but that option wasn’t available to residents until a 2019 state law changed the program from opt-in to opt-out. That greatly increased the number of likely participants in any town, making it viable to gather them together and take them to the open market.
Aside from probably getting lower rates, the programs allow each community to tailor its power options, such as giving a “green” alternative.
Billing and repairs will still be handled by the local power utility even if community power is adopted. No taxpayer money is involved, and communities can withdraw from the program if they wish.
Bulk-purchase options are part of many changes coming to the system of making and delivering electricity, fueled by technologies like solar power and batteries that make it possible to turn electricity consumers into potential producers.
Note that community power programs are not the same as community solar programs despite some confusion between the town, including in an earlier Monitor article. Community power does not necessarily have to involve any solar power, although it often does.
Does anyone know how a town’s residents will officially be informed of how to opt out, if they so choose?
Here is some detail from the Community Power Coalition of New Hampshire (https://www.cpcnh.org/benefits):
“Prior to launch of a Community Power program, all eligible customers are mailed notifications and provided the opportunity to opt-out or opt-in to the program, depending on whether they currently take service from a Competitive Electric Power Supplier or are on default service provided by local electric distribution utilities:
“Customers currently on utility-provided default service will be notified, provided the opportunity to decline participation, and transferred to the Community Power if they do not “opt-out”. These customer notifications will include the initial fixed rate for the program’s default service compared with the utility default service rate, be mailed to customers at least 30 days in advance of program launch, and provide instructions for customers to decline participation (for example, by return postcard, calling a phone number or using a web portal).
“Customers who previously chose to take service from a Competitive Electric Power Supplier will be notified and may request to “opt-in” to the program.”
If you want savings and stable rates vote for Community Power. The first four communities to launch community power in New Hampshire signed firm contracts for electricity on March 7 for 11.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, almost 9 cents lower than the current Eversource default rate. With rates like these there is no reason to opt out, but the program is completely flexible, you can opt out, join, or change products any time, before the program starts or any time. Here is a link to Keene’s announcement with a link to their joint press release with the towns of Swanzey, Marlborough and Wilton. These communities, and seven more voting this week, are working with the team of Standard Power and Good Energy. https://keenenh.gov/sustainability/news/keene-community-power-program-launch-june