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Community Leaders Join Together to Form Community Power New Hampshire

Municipal and county-led project aims to bring competition, decarbonization, and local governance to the electricity sector.

(This article was written jointly by a coalition of communities forming Community Power New Hampshire.)

Community Power New Hampshire (CPNH) was recently formed by local and regional energy committees, town managers and sustainability staff, elected officials, city energy managers, county administrators, and regional planning commissions. We have come together because we believe that through joint action, we can most fully realize the opportunity of a competitive, decarbonized, and locally-governed electricity sector as made possible through Community Power programs (RSA 53-E).

Our goal is to create a pathway to Community Power implementation that is accessible to all New Hampshire cities, towns, and counties. The two main objectives that will allow us to realize that goal are: (1) form a new, locally governed legal entity (CPNH) with the technical capacity to provide the services required of Community Power programs; and (2) support individual communities to develop their own Community Power programs, and join CPNH if they choose.

Why CPNH?

The Community Power Law (SB 286) was enacted in fall 2019. It enables local governments cities, towns, and counties to procure and provide electricity on behalf of their residents and businesses. But the functions required for sophisticated wholesale electricity procurement and retail electricity sales and services require an economy of scale beyond the capacities of most NH municipal governments.

The solution is CPNH, a new entity governed by local governments to serve local governments. CPNH will competitively solicit and enlist service providers to implement advanced power procurement and other functions (e.g., data management and analytics) required to realize the full potential of Community Power. CPNH will enable individual communities and individual Community Power programs to set their own electricity rates and their own program goals.

We have identified the following goals for Community Power, some of which may be prioritized over others by different communities:

  1. Strengthen local control and choice: Participating communities will have the ability to craft their own energy portfolios and evolve them over time, making decisions about energy supply rates, renewable energy content, and surplus revenue allocation.

  2. Reduce and control cost: Community Power programs will have access to competitive rate offerings relative to their default utility energy supply, and the ability to better manage electricity cost drivers (e.g., capacity).

  3. Accelerate decarbonization and renewable energy: Community Power programs may choose to procure renewable energy by purchasing Renewable Energy Credits, contracting with existing renewable energy generators, or enabling construction of new renewable energy systems.

  4. Stimulate competitive, local markets for modern energy products and services: Community Power programs will have access to retail products and service providers enabling integrated demand-side management and market-based deployment of distributed energy resources including dynamic and real-time pricing options, distributed generation, energy storage, electrification of transportation and heating sectors, and energy efficiency.

  5. Modernize local infrastructure and strengthen resiliency: Community Power programs may enhance resiliency of critical facilities through planned deployment of local energy resources and micro-grids, as well as advanced interval meters and Smart Grid communications working in partnership with local distribution utilities and others to modernize our local infrastructure.

  6. Streamline local and regional coordination: Community Power programs, working together with Regional Planning Commissions, counties, and other partners, can collaborate on electrification of public transit, streamline permitting for innovative technologies, and to remove other barriers to progress by coordinating action at the Public Utility Commission and Legislature.

At present, CPNH’s activities are organized into four categories and working groups: (1) governance agreement; (2) regulatory and legislative engagement; (3) operating model design; and (4) community engagement. Local governments working on Community Power implementation are invited to contribute to one or more of CPNHs Working Groups.

Governance Agreement

CPNH and municipal attorneys are reviewing a Joint Powers Agreement (authorized by RSA 53-A), a contract among local governments that creates a new locally-governed legal entity (CPNH) to competitively solicit and contract for the services necessary for Community Power operations. Over the coming months, we will work together to refine the details of such an agreement, including the process by which additional local governments may join CPNH and participate in its governance.

Regulatory and Legislative Engagement

The Public Utilities Commission is considering a rule-making process that will affect Community Power programs. Coordination with electric distribution utilities is an important part of Community Power. For example, the process for data transfer between utilities and Community Power programs should be clarified and streamlined. CPNH is already actively engaged in the regulatory process.

Operating Model Design

CPNH will likely have a mix of internal staff and sub-contracted service providers. For example, functions like (1) energy portfolio management and engagement in ISO New England wholesale markets; or (2) retail customer services (including data management, notifications, websites, billing), may initially be competitively sub-contracted to expert service providers. Enlisting of service providers will be conducted in a competitive and transparent fashion. Careful thought will be given to the most effective operating model, and how CPNH may expand in-house expertise and operational functionality overtime.

Community Engagement

New Hampshire is home to roughly 70 local energy committees. Many of those communities, and many more still, are looking for a pathway to make use of Community Power. Through partners such as the NH Municipal Association and Clean Energy NH, we hope to maintain active communication with our counterparts across the state who may wish to stay informed and supportive of our efforts. Working with regional planning commissions, we will develop toolkits and templates to enable speedy adoption of Community Power programs across the state.

We will maintain information about progress of the CPNH on www.nhenergy.org, and will host a Community Power Summit on Friday, June 5, 2020 to prepare municipalities for implementation (save the date!).

The aspirational timeline we have set for ourselves envisions a launch of initial Community Power programs through CPNH later in 2020 or early in 2021.

The Community Power law presents an enormous opportunity for our local governments to take control of our energy futures. We believe that CPNH is the pathway to seizing that opportunity, and we invite other communities to join us and strengthen our efforts.

Community Power New Hampshire Members

Town of Bristol: Paul Bemis, Bristol Energy Committee

Town of Harrisville: Mary Day Mordecai and Ned Hulbert, Planning Board

Town of Hanover: Julia Griffin, Town Manager and April Salas, Sustainability Director

City of Lebanon: Clifton Below, Assistant Mayor and Tad Montgomery, Energy and Facilities Manager

City of Nashua: Doria Brown, Energy Manager

Cheshire County: Rod Bouchard, Assistant County Administrator/ Special Projects and Strategic Initiatives

Supporting Partners

Monadnock Sustainability Hub: Dori Drachmann, Co-founder

Dartmouth College Thayer School of Engineering: Dr. Amro M. Farid

Community Choice Partners: Samuel Golding

Rockingham Planning Commission: Jill Longval

Clean Energy NH: Henry Herndon

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