Concentration of CO2 in the Atmosphere

Community Choice Aggregation, CPCNH and Tamworth, NH

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George Harvey

One thing that has been getting increasingly clear about energy is that those of us who don’t have solar power dominating our energy supply are probably paying too much for it, because the cost of renewable energy started to fall below that of fossil several years ago, and it has generally kept falling. A problem with this is that it is not always easy to switch.

In 2019, New Hampshire adopted laws enabling Community Choice Aggregation, making it possible for people to contract for their electricity supply as a group. Getting the law passed did not end the matter. Things have to proceed, and it took until October 2022 for the NH Public Utilities Commission to come up with regulations. Finally, the private brokers and non-profits who will aggregate had to come up with a plan, within which the people could function as a group, and that takes some local leadership.

The Tamworth, NH Energy Committee was formed in January 2023. Gabrielle Watson, the committee chair, described the early days of their action as a steep learning curve. “We thought we would jump into it a year from now after we got our sea legs, letting others go ahead of us and seeing how they do.”

That, however, was not to be. There are many reasons to adopt community choice aggregation, and there are a lot of reasons why various private brokers would want to help a community adopt it. Very early on, one of those brokers approached the town administrator, Keats Myer, and she quickly put the job of considering it to the Energy Committee.

The committee went into action straight away, examining different ways the aggregation could be done. Two possibilities they considered were from business organizations, both of which seemed strong choices, and one was from a non-profit, the Community Power Coalition of New Hampshire (CPCNH). After examining the offerings, the committee decided to recommend going forward with Community Power and using CPCNH to do that.

CPCNH is there to achieve lower rates, give people more choice about renewables in their supply mix, and give consumers more voice,” Watson told us. The consumer voice part of that was important, but there was another reason to go with the non-profit.

Instead of providing itself with profits to distribute to the owners, CPCNH is putting what would have been profits into reserve funds for the benefit of its customers. Some if it is put into a fund to soften the blows of volatile energy costs, which can rise without control. And part of it is put aside to help the community develop its own better way to generate energy. To do this, it could help access low-interest loans.

According to Wikipedia, the town of Tamworth has a population of about 2,800, divided among five villages. Watson told us she thought about one quarter of the people in New Hampshire are signed up for the aggregation system. Getting to this point represents an impressive undertaking coming to a successful point in very little time.

The committee did not take a break after its work on community choice aggregation, however. It has done energy audits on the municipal building, after one on the library was already done. Both audits recommended that both get their own solar panels. The Tamworth Energy Committee is already working with the local elementary school to do an audit of their buildings.

Watson is already looking at the changes that might come about in the future. For example, she says that in addition to such things as more extreme weather, people in the Northeast really need to be prepared to have more climate refugees in the years ahead. We should note that some of these will be Americans who have lost their homes in this country.

Caption:

Historic Tamworth Town House, 1794. Magicpiano, Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA 4.0.

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