The Community Power Statute In New Hampshire Is Changing The Electricity Market Five Years Later

The community power statute in New Hampshire allows towns to purchase electricity directly from the source rather than through their local distribution company. (New Hampshire Bulletin/Dana Wormald)

The Community Power Coalition, which has been in existence for a year in New Hampshire, is benefiting from its member towns’ cooperation in purchasing electricity independently.

The base power pricing for residential and small commercial customers in the 16 active member municipalities of the alliance will be 8.1 cents per kWh beginning of February 1. This is a 26 percent decrease from their already competitive rate of 10.9 cents per kWh.

With the introduction of their own programs this spring, an additional 29 cities want to take advantage of the reduced tariff, making the statewide alliance the state’s second-largest supplier of electricity.

Resilience manager for the city of Dover and coalition board member Jackson Kaspari said, “The community power program has been a great success.” For instance, Dover’s initiative has saved residential and commercial customers an estimated $500,000 since its inception in October of last year, he added.

The default home rate offered by all other electric utilities in the state is higher than the new rate, which will be in place until July 31. It is 20% higher than Unitil, 20% lower than the New Hampshire Electric Co-op, 17% higher than Liberty, and 2% higher than Eversource.

The inaugural CEO of the alliance and a former vice president of power resources and access at the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, Brian Callnan, predicted that customers in all member municipalities would save around $3.2 million over the course of the next six-month rate period.

The community power bill in New Hampshire was signed in 2019 and allows towns to purchase electricity directly from the source rather than through their local distribution business. The distribution firms are still in charge of billing and delivering electricity.

The coalition obtains favorable prices in the wholesale market by utilizing the combined purchasing power of all of its citizens and companies. According to Callnan, their capacity for flexibility in the time of energy procurements allows them to identify value.

“We are not required to buy electricity at a specific time,” he declared. The controlled procurement procedure of “the investor-owned utilities doesn’t have that flexibility,” in comparison.

The base rate offered by the coalition, dubbed the Granite Basic, has a minimum of 24.3 percent renewable content, as mandated by the state’s renewable portfolio standard. However, consumers have the option to pay marginally more for higher percentages of renewable energy.

According to John Tabor, chair of the Portsmouth Energy Advisory Committee, choosing the highest level, the Clean 100, which uses only renewable energy, would still only add an estimated $29 to the average residential customer’s monthly bill over the basic rate, but would eliminate over two tons of carbon emissions annually.

In a statement issued at the time of the new pricing announcement, Tabor stated that “Portsmouth Community Power customers could reduce their carbon footprint from electricity the same as if they converted their homes to solar panels, at a fraction of the cost.”

According to Callnan, over 90% of consumers have decided to stick with the Granite Basic product.

The nonprofit coalition’s operational expenses are met by the proceeds from the sale of power, with any remaining funds going into reserves. Each member community receives a certain amount of the nonprofit’s total reserves. Additionally, member cities will have the chance to establish their own reserve funds to pursue additional energy-related projects in their towns, such creating solar projects or increasing building efficiency.

According to him, the coalition might collaborate with a neighborhood that is running a solar project and purchase some of the energy generated.

Callnan stated, “pretty much every community has ideas for projects or is working on projects.” The intriguing thing about this, in my opinion, is that we can actually influence how a community utilizes energy. Although none of the renewable projects being developed in our areas are currently underway, that may change by 2025.

According to Kaspari, the energy commission of Dover is thinking of implementing a multi-phase program to increase the energy efficiency of their municipal buildings. According to him, they have also assessed a few locations for solar energy construction, including the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

According to Kaspari, “joining the coalition has opened the door for information sharing with other municipalities and given us new perspectives on a lot of things.” “Leaders in the energy sector conversing with one another from across the state is one of the coalition’s most potent features right now.”

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