By Randy Bryan
The Concord NH Energy Committee has recently taken up the cause of Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign to get the city to commit to 100% renewable energy and transportation by some future date. This is a big step from “advocating for any or more renewables” to “let’s make plans for the end game of a fully renewable clean energy future.” Wow! We all know it needs to happen, but how do we get from here to there? The Sierra Club now has many cities joining the campaign across the country trying to figure this out. I dare say each city will carve a different path according to its needs and opportunities, but all will head in the same general direction and each path will have to cover all the same issues to complete the transformation.
The Concord Energy Committee is taking the beginning steps of organizing and documenting their ideas into a white paper. I congratulate its chief architects: Rob Werner (committee head), Allyson Samuels (who formerly headed the Hanover, NH program), Zachery Jonas (organizer) and Chuck Willing (white paper editor). From this effort will undoubtedly come subcommittees to tackle individual projects. For me, as a Concord Energy Committee adjunct, just helping them write the transportation part has been thought provoking and empowering. They are proposing to get all electric power from renewable sources by 2030, and thermal and transportation to go completely clean by 2050. I believe it is feasible, and of course, it is the right thing to do.
For municipal transportation, the suggestions are: to mandate the transportation departments (roads, police, fire, schools, general, etc.) to include electric vehicles in all of each year’s vehicle purchase considerations; to judge the vehicles on suitability for the task and lifetime total cost of ownership (not initial purchase price where a tie goes to the cleanest vehicle); to choose the initial electric vehicle purchases or pilot-projects soonest for the core of the fleets, not the periphery; and whenever possible to engage in public-private partnerships with charge station operators, so that the charging of city-bought plug-in vehicles will also help to stimulate public charging solutions.
In the longer run, with the falling cost of batteries, EVs are projected to have lower initial cost than competing combustion vehicles (within five to ten years) and will still retain their much lower operating costs. With experiences, people will also recognize that electric vehicles are fun and using electric energy for the car will work even better with all their energy needs. Ergo, the obviousness of buying electric will be readily apparent. It’s the getting started and having an overarching goal, that is the magic sauce.
I admire Concord’s approach and can’t help but wonder if the Ready for 100 path might be a good one for more municipalities and, possibly, all of New Hampshire. New Hampshire lacks a long-term strategy to fully clean up its electric, thermal and transportation systems. There have been plans and resolutions to use more renewables, but movement toward planning the end game of going 100% clean/sustainable is not there yet. If it is an idea whose time has come, there are a number of organizations in New Hampshire that might be well suited to take up the cause such as Sierra Club, NH Sustainable Energy Association (NHSEA), NH Clean Tech Council, Drive Electric NH, and NH Division of Environmental Services. For clean transportation there is much to do on individual, corporate, public and government bases, from considering electric drive for your vehicles, to advancing vehicle charging solutions. If you’d like to see this approach go statewide, get in touch with the Sierra Club or NHSEA. If you do join the cause, I believe you’ll enjoy the ride.
Randy Bryan has been an advocate for electric cars for eight-plus years. His company, ConVerdant Vehicles, has converted vehicles to plug-in hybrids, including his own Prius in 2008, and developed and sold inverters that turn a Prius into an emergency generator. He is one of the co-founders of Drive Electric NH.