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Berlin named possible beacon community

December 02, 2009
BERLIN — The state announced last week Berlin will be one of three New Hampshire cities partnering with the state to apply for federal funds to reduce the cities' energy consumption.

If the state and the partnering cities win the grant, the cities will serve as models of energy efficiency for other New Hampshire communities.

Berlin, Nashua and Plymouth are all partnering with the state to apply for the Retro-fit Ramp Up Program from the U.S. Department of Energy. If the grant is successful with the DOE, the cities would each become beacon communities, as outlined by the state's Beacon Community Project.

The Retro-fit Ramp Up Program was announced by the DOE in September. They will be giving away $454 million to improve the energy infrastructure around the country. $390 million will be given away at the state level, and another $64 million will be given away at the community level.

The New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning will be filing the application on behalf of the three communities for the state-level funding. According to a memo the OEP sent to city officials last week, "The program will be competitive, but New Hampshire is well positioned to be successful."

The OEP memo said they expected between six and 20 awards to be given out, ranging from between $5 million and $75 million. The money will serve to clear the hurdles of the high initial costs and low market valuation of efficiency improvements, the note said.

Becoming a beacon community would mean other cities would look to Berlin for guidance on how they could improve their energy consumption. The Beacon Community Project has grown out of the Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Energy Board, which was created in 2008 by the state legislature "to promote and coordinate energy efficiency, demand response, and sustainable energy programs in the state."

The OEP is asking each of the cities to meet with the state advisory team this week, to reach out to community leaders, and to start thinking about what projects each city would undertake.

The city should review the program background, the community needs, assets and thoughts, and the specific neighborhoods, schools and municipal buildings involved, the OEP said.

The DOE application is due on December 14.

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