with Membership of 13 Municipalities and One County
Do you know where your power comes from? If you live in select municipalities in New Hampshire, soon you will be able to have more control over the source of your electricity.
On Friday October 1, 2021, thirteen municipalities and one county joined together to incorporate Community Power Coalition of New Hampshire (The Coalition). The nonprofit Joint Powers Agency was created to assist participating cities and towns in launching Community Power programs by which they aggregate and sell electric power on a community scale. Community Power was made possible by recent legislation enacted in 2019 amending RSA 53-E, also known as the Community Power Law and is a voluntary program for residents and municipalities.
The founding members of the Coalition are: Cities of Lebanon, Nashua and Dover; Towns of Hanover, Harrisville, Exeter, Rye, Warner, Walpole, Plainfield, Newmarket, Enfield and Durham; and Cheshire County. Each member community has appointed a Director and an Alternate to serve on the Coalition’s Board of Directors.
“This is the most exciting thing to happen to the electricity sector in New Hampshire in decades,” said New Hampshire’s Consumer Advocate, Don Kreis. “If you are fortunate enough to live in a Community Power municipality, your municipality is going to be intimately involved in delivering to you not just cheaper electricity, but a whole menu possibly of energy initiatives that will deliver concrete benefits to you, that it will make you a more empowered and flexible consumer of the electricity grid and of energy generally.”
“A lot of work has occurred over the past two years to get us to this point, and I’m thrilled that we are kicking off the Coalition with such a robust and diverse membership,” said Hanover Sustainability Director April Salas, who was elected Chair of the Coalition. “This new institution is going to have a real impact in empowering our cities and towns to really lead on energy issues.”
Coalition Membership is open to all New Hampshire cities, towns and counties, and to regionally operated Community Power programs. The Coalition is subject to New Hampshire’s Right to Know law and all official meetings will be noticed and open to the public.
“It is finally here” was a resonant sentiment heard often throughout the day. Consultants Samuel Golding and Henry Herndon have been working with these fourteen municipalities, among others, over the last year and a half to help form and launch the Coalition.
Clifton Below, Lebanon’s assistant mayor, was elected Vice-Chair of the Coalition. Mr. Below is the primary author of the legislation enabling Community Power. “Community Power Aggregation is a deliberate double entendre,” said Below. “We will be providing electric power in aggregate to our communities, with the goal of lowering costs and expanding access to renewable energy and other innovations. But the Coalition also aggregates the political power of communities so their interests may be better represented in state policy decisions that impact energy.”
The 13 city and town members of the Coalition represent more than 210,000 residents, or about 15% of the population of New Hampshire with a potential default service load larger than Liberty Utilities’ default service, approximately equivalent in size to both Unitil and the New Hampshire Electric Coop, and all of which are smaller than Eversource (New Hampshire’s largest investor-owned distribution utility).
State law directs the Public Utilities Commission to adopt rules governing the relationship between Community Power programs and distribution utilities with regard to metering, billing, access to customers data and other aspects of programs. Prior to incorporation, Coalition members collaborated with the PUC, utilities and other stakeholders to draft regulatory rules. The Coalition intends to continue to collaborate with state regulators and utilities on rules that enable an expeditious launch of New Hampshire’s Community Power market.
Electric distribution utilities continue to own and operate the local electrical grid, while Community Power programs serve as the default electricity supplier within the municipality. The programs operate on a competitive basis and are self-funded through the revenues received by participating customers, who can choose to take default service from their distribution utility or from a Competitive Electric Power Supplier.