In recognition of NH’s energy committees

Committees in nearly 100 communities work hard to help towns take control of costs by embracing distributed energy and energy efficiency
Henry Herndon

This July marks the nine-year anniversary of a legislative achievement for New Hampshire whose importance would be difficult to overstate. In 2009, the Legislature empowered the cities and towns of New Hampshire to establish energy committees to provide guidance on local energy planning. 

In many ways, municipalities operate like businesses, constantly seeking opportunities to cut costs and maximize the value they can provide with smart investments in innovation.

The menu of local energy options is a long one, encompassing wood-pellet boiler heating systems, competitive markets for energy supply, distributed generation like solar photovoltaics, and even options to generate revenue by shifting or curtailing energy load.

Municipalities across the state are implementing all of these solutions faster than we can keep track, but when it comes to controlling energy costs, the first resource is always efficiency.

In 2017, more than 65 New Hampshire cities, towns and schools took advantage of the utility-administered energy efficiency programs of NHSaves for a total of 149 municipal energy-efficiency projects. These projects cover a wide spread from “no-brainers” like LED streetlight conversions and other lighting projects to more complex jobs involving new construction, building weatherization and more.

As someone who works closely with energy committees across the state, I know firsthand that without these dedicated and engaged citizens, many of the dollars saved by these projects would remain unrealized.

In addition to energy efficiency, the energy committees are also busy facilitating their towns’ adoption of distributed generation. An astounding 40 New Hampshire municipalities are further controlling their energy costs by generating their own electricity with solar photovoltaics.

The city of Dover is perhaps the newest member to join the exploding community of solar-powered schools and municipalities. Earlier this month, the city council, closely advised by the energy commission, approved two large solar installations. One will be located at the Dover High School and Career Technical Center, and the other will serve the Children’s Museum of New Hampshire and the Dover indoor pool, located adjacent to Henry Law Park in the heart of downtown Dover.

The high school project is projected to save the city nearly $300,000 over 20 years. If the rate of municipal solar adoption continues at its current pace, there will not be a single non-solar-powered New Hampshire town left by 2030.

The portfolio of energy projects that keeps cities and towns busy goes far beyond energy efficiency and solar PV. Electric vehicle charging stations are popping up across the state, in many cases spurred by hardworking energy committees. We can expect the deployment of electric vehicle charging infrastructure to accelerate, particularly due to the imminent rollout of a program by the NH Office of Strategic Initiatives and NH Department of Environmental Services to dole out nearly $31 million courtesy of Volkswagen as recompense the company’s emissions scandal. Part of the Volkswagen settlement funds will be allocated towards helping communities deploy electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

The next 10 years of local energy progress in New Hampshire are likely to be even more dramatic than the past 10 have been. The Public Utilities Commission is in the process of rolling out a series of pilot projects to help determine the real value of distributed energy resources. Electric grid modernization is another developing regulatory initiative with potential to further stimulate local energy innovation. The energy committees, and others who are paying attention to the energy industry, are keenly aware that battery storage is poised to be at the center of significant sector-wide disruption in the coming decade. Perhaps more than others, the municipal sector is becoming well versed in the opportunities of distributed energy. With continuing guidance from their energy committees our cities and towns are more than ready to lead the way towards the localized energy infrastructure of the 21st century.

Here’s a partial listof New Hampshire municipalities and schools with solar projects:

 • Brentwood

 • Bristol

 • Canaan

 • Canterbury

 • Chesterfield

 • Claremont

 • Derry

 • Dover

 • Dublin

 • Durham

 • East Kingston

 • Exeter

 • Fitzwilliam

 • Grantham

 • Hancock

 • Hillsborough

 • Holderness

 • Hollis

 • Hopkinton

 • Keene

 • Kingston

 • Laconia

 • Lancaster

 • Lee

 • Londonderry

 • Lyme

 • Madbury

 • Manchester

 • Meredith

 • Milton

 • Nelson

 • New London

 • Newport

 • Northfield

 • Peterborough

 • Plainfield

 • Plymouth

 • Portsmouth

 • Rochester

 • Sanbornton

 • Sandwich

 • Tilton

 • Warner

 • Washington

 • Windham 

Henry Herndon is director, local energy solutions, for the NH Sustainable Energy Association.

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