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.