Local municipalities still awaiting final state rules for community power plans


July 23 – Municipalities whose community food plans were awaiting state approval faced another delay this month when the NH Utilities Commission postponed voting on the final rules.

“The PUC has had almost three years since the legislation was passed to write the rules,” said Marge Shepardson, chair of the Marlborough Community Power Committee, of the New Hampshire law authorizing these programs. “I feel like they are dragging their feet and blocking cities all over the state that are ready to start community power.”

Tony Cassady, co-chair of the Peterborough Community Energy Task Force, said that group was also disappointed with the delay.

“With electricity rates increasing from our utility, Eversource, we would like to be able to launch Community Power as soon as possible, but we are on hold due to PUC delays in releasing the rules,” he said. he stated in an email. .

Other reactions from the region to this latest shift have been mixed. While acknowledging that she had wanted the rules finalized earlier, Keene’s lead planner Mari Brunner said community power is a complex issue. “We look forward to seeing the final rules later this month, which will hopefully allow us to move forward with our local program as quickly as possible,” she said in an email.

Under a community energy program, a municipal government rather than a utility provides electricity to local consumers. This gives the municipality more control over the electricity supply, allowing it to seek out cheaper or greener options, while a utility continues to maintain the transmission lines and supply the electricity.

Legislation allowing such programs in New Hampshire took effect in 2019, and in 2021 Keene became the first municipality in the state to adopt one. Harrisville adopted its own plan last year, and Swanzey, Marlborough, Peterborough and Walpole adopted theirs earlier in 2022. But the plans must be approved by the PUC to be implemented.

The PUC rejected Keene’s and Harrisville’s plans because they failed to meet rules yet to be established by the commission. The plans were rejected without prejudice, which means they can be resubmitted for approval.

The rules will cover a variety of topics, including the relationship between municipal and county aggregators and utility utilities, access to customer data for planning and operations, metering and billing, according to the PUC.

Still, this month’s delayed regulatory decision may not further delay the implementation of community power plans, according to Andrea Hodson, chair of the Harrisville Electric Aggregation Committee.

If the PUC files its decision on the rules with the Office of Legislative Services on July 28 — the day after the committee vote — the proposal could be heard by the Joint Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules at its scheduled meeting on August 18. , according to Hodson.

The plans cannot be approved by the PUC until the rules are approved by the legislative committee, but may enter a 60-day queue, according to Robert Hayden, president and chief technical officer of Standard Power of America, who worked with Keene and Swanzey on their plans.

Like others, Hayden called the delay frustrating.

“It’s difficult at a time when rate relief is important,” he said.

Henry Herndon, an energy consultant affiliated with the Community Power Coalition of New Hampshire, speaking on behalf of his company Herndon Enterprises, echoed that.

“It’s unfortunate… [The PUC] have had almost three years to do their job,” he said. The nonprofit coalition, established last year, helps municipalities and counties establish community energy programs.

Herndon said the plans would reduce energy prices in the face of the current rate shock.

According to Eversource, energy prices in New Hampshire hit an all-time high this summer. Eversource customers who use 600 kilowatt hours of electricity each month will see their monthly bill increase by approximately $71.

Tom Benoit can be reached at 352-5993 or tbenoit@keenesentinel.com.

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