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The Dartmouth
February 21, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Edelman and Bindra: Community Power is an Opportunity for Climate Action

The new Community Power program in Hanover and several other New Hampshire communities offers consumers the exciting choice to use clean energy for their electricity needs.

At a meeting of Hanover’s Electric Aggregation Committee in mid-February, students from Dartmouth’s Energy Justice Clinic watched as committee members voted unanimously to launch Hanover’s Community Choice Aggregation plan. The vote signals an achievement in a years-long effort to bring Community Power to New Hampshire. The launch of Community Power this spring is a chance for New Hampshire businesses and residents — including some Dartmouth students, staff and faculty — to take control over where their electricity comes from.

Given that electricity is a major contributor to climate change, this is an opportunity for climate action. Dartmouth College and community members should act on this opportunity by opting up to higher levels of renewable energy.

Community power will provide Hanover residents and businesses, including members of the Dartmouth community, with agency over their electricity supply. When Hanover Community Power launches in late April, most customers who currently receive electricity through a default utility — such as Eversource or Liberty — will become automatically enrolled in the program. Residents will be able to choose from a menu offering electricity containing varying levels of renewable energy content at different prices, providing individuals with the opportunity to move towards cleaner sources of electricity.

Members of the Dartmouth community who live off-campus and receive power from a default utility will become automatically enrolled in Hanover Community Power. Hanover Community Power’s rate offerings will range from 15.8 cents per kwh (for 23% renewable energy) to 19.1 cents per kwh (for 100% renewable energy), making all electricity rates lower than the current rates for Liberty (22.0 cents per kwh) and Eversource (20.2 cents per kwh). Therefore, Hanover residents can opt up to 100% renewable energy while still saving money on their electricity costs.

Despite minimal action to mitigate climate change at the state level, the rollout of Community Power demonstrates the mobilization of New Hampshire towns towards a low-carbon electricity supply. Hanover, along with nine other towns in the New Hampshire Community Power Coalition, is in the first wave preparing to launch community programs this spring. Also in this first wave are the Upper Valley communities of Enfield, Lebanon and Plainfield.

New Hampshire remains the only state in New England that has not adopted greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. By law, investor-owned utilities are merely required to meet a minimum Renewable Portfolio Standard of 23.4% renewable power, which is substantially lower than its New England neighbors. Hanover Community Power’s base rate will match or beat the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, with options for increasing levels of renewable power of 33%, 50% or 100%. The decision of residents to opt-up will support Hanover’s goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2030.

Former Hanover town manager Julia Griffin and executive director of the Irving Institute April Salas were instrumental in forming the Community Power Coalition of New Hampshire in late 2019, along with representatives from Lebanon, Nashua, Cheshire Country and Harrisville. The passage of NH RSA 53-E earlier that year enabled communities to aggregate their local demand for electricity and replace the utility provider as the “default supplier.” The Coalition has since grown to include over 26 municipalities and one county member.

Through the Energy Justice Clinic, Dartmouth students have been engaged in supporting the launch of Community Power and learning from Community Power Coalition members about the intricacies of the sustainable energy transition. At a Community Power Coalition Public Engagement Workshop in early January, for example, Energy Justice Clinic research assistants listened as town representatives from across New Hampshire drafted outreach strategies to spread local awareness about Community Power. The Dartmouth Energy Alliance, a student-run organization, is also supporting Lyme’s Electric Aggregation Committee in encouraging their town to join the Coalition.

Given that Dartmouth College procures electricity through a third-party supplier, it will not become automatically enrolled in Hanover Community Power. However, the launch of Community Power presents an opportunity for the College to demonstrate its commitment to sustainability and leverage its financial resources. By switching at least some of the College’s electric supply to Community Power, and opting up to 100% renewable energy, the College could reinforce consumer confidence in the Community Power Coalition, support the town’s transition towards renewable resources and reduce the College’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Members of the Dartmouth community who live off-campus and receive power from a default utility will become automatically enrolled in Hanover Community Power. Hanover Community Power’s rate offerings will range from 15.8 cents per kwh (for 23% renewable energy) to 19.1 cents per kwh (for 100% renewable energy), making all electricity rates lower than the current rates for Liberty (22.0 cents per kwh) and Eversource (20.2 cents per kwh). Therefore, Hanover residents can opt up to 100% renewable energy while still saving money on their electricity costs.

For those eager to play a role in supporting the clean energy transition, now is the time! The Energy Justice Clinic encourages Dartmouth community members to select the highest level of renewables they can afford to help Hanover meet its renewable energy goals and to combat climate change at the local level.

Sophie Edelman is a member of the Class of 2022 and Thayer School Class of 2023. She studies Energy Engineering and Environmental Studies. Sunint Bindra is a member of the Class of 2023 and studies Computer Science and Economics. Edelman and Bindra are both Research Assistants in the Dartmouth Energy Justice Clinic (EJC). This article was collaboratively written as part of ongoing community-based research undertaken by the Dartmouth Energy Justice Clinic. Members of the town of Hanover Energy Subcommittee, mentors and students in the Clinic, as well as the Dartmouth Sustainability Office provided feedback.

Opinion articles represent the views of their author(s), which are not necessarily those of The Dartmouth.

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