Community Power Comes to New Hampshire – But Will It Green the Grid?

A new electric utility is setting up shop in New Hampshire.  If you live in one of the 18 cities or towns that it’s ready to serve, chances are you will become one of its first paying customers (unless you opt out).  

And you’ll be in growing company.  When the switch gets flipped next month, a fifth of the state’s electric customers will be served by the Community Power Coalition of New Hampshire – second in customer size only to Eversource, the largest utility in the state.  With more New Hampshire towns lining up to join this coalition, it could overtake Eversource in total customers served in just a few years.  Currently, Eversource manages 43% of the state’s default load service.

This move toward more local control over future power purchasing decisions could help ratepayers save money and offer a path to a cleaner energy system.  But it remains to be seen how the state’s already deregulated power structure will respond to these governance changes.  

A key question, however, will more community input in utility power planning make the New Hampshire grid any greener?  Read on to find out more about what lies ahead for the Community Power Coalition of New Hampshire and its newly minted Granite State customers.  

Source:  Community Power Coalition of New Hampshire

Power to the People!  

This big moment in New Hampshire utility history has been at least four years in the making.  In 2019, the New Hampshire legislature granted municipalities the authority to adopt community power programs – freeing local governments to procure cheaper and cleaner electricity on behalf of their community residents and businesses.  While existing utilities will remain responsible for delivering power and sending out monthly electric bills to retail customers, participating communities will get to shop around and select their preferred electricity providers at the wholesale power level.  

Large power users in New Hampshire have had this luxury of choice ever since the state first adopted electricity deregulation back in 1996.  Since then, nearly 90% of Eversource’s large business customers have found alternative energy providers.  However, that has not been the case for 70% of small businesses and 85% of residential customers, who have stuck with their default utility over the years.

Left to their own devices, these smaller customers lack the time or sophistication to research competing wholesale power plan options and pick the best ones.  The same goes for many municipalities that also lack necessary resources and expertise.  To achieve proper economies of scale, these smaller power-market participants need partners, collaborators and a larger resource and customer base.

Community Power Coalition of New Hampshire

That’s where the Community Power Coalition of New Hampshire comes in.  Born out of the 2019 utility regulatory reforms, this coalition landed Hanover and Lebanon as its first two municipal partners in early 2021.  Since then, the ranks of the CPCNH have grown to 18 New Hampshire municipalities, including the Upper Valley towns of Enfield and Plainfield.  

Other New Hampshire communities participating in the CPCNH include: Dover, Durham, Hudson, Nashua, Newmarket, New London, Pembroke, Portsmouth and Warner.  Cheshire County is also a member.  More than two dozen other New Hampshire municipalities have expressed interest in joining this coalition, which could swell its ranks from 20% to 30% of the state’s overall customer base. 

So, where does community power in New Hampshire go from here?  

  • For starters, New Hampshire ratepayers in participating municipalities will be enrolled in the CPCNH automatically, but may opt out at any time, without penalty.  
  • All community power must be self-funded through member services.  By law, New Hampshire towns cannot use municipal funds to cover any program expenses.
  • Legacy utilities like Eversource, Liberty, Unitil and the New Hampshire Electric Co-operative will continue to distribute power to all retail customers and be responsible for monthly billing.
  • Starting in April 2023, however, coalition members will be able to choose how they contract for future power — prioritizing solar, wind and local energy sources over fossil fuels tied to global warming, for example. 
  • Community power delivery options may not launch until each town prepares an electric aggregation plan that is approved by the New Hampshire PUC.  The plan must show that the electricity to be offered is at a lower rate than from the default utility serving the community.    
  • As a first step, customers in participating New Hampshire towns can choose a default level of 23.4% power from renewables, or pay higher rates to receive a higher fraction from renewables.  (See the breakdown below.) 
NH Community Power Coalition Rate ProductRenewable Content
Granite Basic23.4% renewable (minimum required by state law) 
Granite Plus33% renewable or carbon free
Clean 50 (optional)50% renewable or carbon free
Clean 100 (optional)100% renewable or carbon free

The Power to Make a Difference

At Solaflect Energy, we’re fond of saying “the power is in our hands to make a difference.”  The Community Power Coalition of New Hampshire captures the spirit of this credo by seeking greater choice and local control in sourcing electricity, more say in how it is generated, more potential partners in locally based renewable energy projects, and lower electricity rates than those available from traditional carbon-based sources.  

These laudable goals are yet to be put into action, however.  Many ratepayers in participating towns may find the amended rate tariff structure as a way of engaging in the fight against climate change.  Yet, given the vagaries of the wholesale power market and renewable energy credits sold at widely varying prices, actual carbon emission savings may be hard to spot in such arms-length, accounting-led transactions. 

Community Power in Your Backyard

What is clear is that global carbon dioxide emissions are still rising to record levels – and now are closing in on 450 ppm, which presents an ominous tipping point for future generations.  With that in mind, the best way to set a community example for clean energy – if feasible at home – is adding solar power in your own backyard! 

Our Solaflect Trackers deliver 40% more power than conventional roof or ground-mounted fixed solar arrays, and produce clean energy at far less than the ever-rising price of electricity through the gas-dominated grid

Better still, the combination of rising utility rates and a boost in the Federal investment tax credit from 26% to 30% has taken the payback time for solar power to an all-time low.  With an expected lifespan of 25 years, you can secure a steady stream of climate-friendly power that locks in decades of big household energy savings.

Solaflect Energy is your trusted home energy management partner.  We help you install clean and affordable solar electricity for a more resilient and climate-friendly future.  For more information email us, or call (802) 649-3700.  

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