January 25, 2023
This spring, twelve cities and towns in New Hampshire, including Rye, Durham and Exeter are planning to go live with a new electricity supply option with the potential of lower costs, more renewable options and future prospects for “green” energy projects. Portsmouth may join them in June.
All of the potential rests with the Community Power Coalition of New Hampshire (CPCNH, https://www.cpcnh.org), formed in 2021 as an initiative made possible by new legislation, and the City of Portsmouth became one of its 27 initial members. NH RSA 53 gives the NH Public Utilities Commission (PUC) the power to approve Community Energy Aggregation entities such as the new Portsmouth Community Power function for Portsmouth and their supporting Energy Aggregation Plans. These agreements allow CPCNH to act as the agent for towns and cities to obtain electric supply and set electric rates alongside Eversource, Unitil and Liberty.
Eversource, the power company serving Portsmouth, will continue to provide and maintain the infrastructure that delivers the electric power from its source to homes and businesses. CPCNH as agent for Portsmouth Community Power will source the electricity, set the rate options available to citizens and provide customer service for billing. Eversource will continue to service distribution lines and respond to outages with its statewide network and regional support system.
The result, according to forecasts by Ascend Analytics, which is lending its experience with similar community power coalitions across the country to CPCNH, is the ability to sustain average consumer power rates below companies like Eversource. The aggregated buying power of so many electric customers also gives towns and cities like Portsmouth more say in the mix of renewables – from 22 percent currently required by the PUC from Eversource and others, to 100 percent “green.” In the long-term, by aggregating reserve funds, CPCNH can also flatten the curves if electric rates suddenly spike as they did in August 2022 and also help individual communities build savings to fund future renewable energy capital projects.
The Portsmouth Energy Advisory Committee, formed last year with City Councilor John Tabor as Chair, has worked with CPCNH to prepare Portsmouth’s Energy Aggregation Plan for review by the PUC in February. In addition to Councilor Tabor, the Committee includes Councilor Kate Cook, Ben D’Antonio, Kevin Charette, Allison Tanner, Tom Rooney and Peter Somssich with staff support from DPW Director Peter Rice and Planning and Sustainability Department Director Peter Britz. Go to more information on the PEAC.
To assess community interest in a Portsmouth Community Power option, the PEAC is conducting a survey of residents and businesses within the 03801 zip code. Postcards were mailed last week to 14,000 addresses with this link to the survey.
Nearly 200 customers have responded already. Participants are asked to complete the survey by February 1 so results can be tabulated promptly.
The PEAC is hosting two public hearings on the topic on February 2 and February 9, both at 6 pm in City Hall Conference Room A, to provide more information on the Community Power concept and to answer questions.
Customers will see no change except for the referenced supplier on their Eversource billing statement. All Portsmouth electric customers will benefit from less expensive electric supply compared to the utility rate as well as more renewable rate options; but they can opt-out of the community aggregation and return to Eversource at any time.