Plymouth leads the way to new energy future
April 15, 2010
PLYMOUTH — When the Carbon Coalition's Climate Change Resolution passed voters approval at Town Meetings across New Hampshire in 2007, one of the things it did was encourage town officials to set up local advisory Energy Committees to look at ways that communities could save energy in municipal buildings. Over 160 New Hampshire towns and cities passed the resolution that spring, but it is fair to say that thus far, none has been more effective at producing results than Plymouth.
The Plymouth Energy Committee Chairman Paul Phillips this week announced that the town has received notification that it has been awarded $230,000 of Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (IEECBG) program funding by the Office of Energy Planning through the U.S. Department of Energy. The funding will enable Plymouth to conduct energy audits of seven town buildings, energy efficiency upgrades on four town buildings, including an ambitious model "retrofit" of the Water and Sewer Department Administration building, and the installation of photo voltaic systems on 3 buildings, the Plymouth Elementary School, the Pease Public Library and the Water and Sewer District building.
The Office of Energy Planning received 270 grant applications totaling $21 million of requests for the $6.6 million of available EECBG funding.
Phillips said that the Plymouth projects were well suited to fulfill some of the objectives of the grant because they are expected to provide ample opportunity for public education on high profile public buildings. The Water and Sewer Department building in particular, a double modular structure similar to many area residences, can serve as a model for the energy and money saving potential of energy retrofits on homes in the local area. He also noted that the timing of the Pease Public Library expansion project and the Plymouth Elementary School renovations, approved by voters at Town and District Meetings in March, provided an excellent window of opportunity to integrate the renewable energy upgrades into the design.
Plymouth Select Board has scheduled a public hearing that is required by statute to accept the "unanticipated" funds at the next regular meeting, April 26 at 6:30 p.m. in the Town Hall, after which a contract will be signed. The work will then go out to bid and is expected to begin this summer.
Plymouth has been unusually blessed with an extraordinary group of exceptionally qualified individuals volunteering to serve on the Energy Committee. The town is also well positioned to take the leadership role in modeling the potential for sustainable energy solutions for New Hampshire because of an array of factors, including the resources of Plymouth State University, with its track record for completing ambitious cutting edge (Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED) projects, the presence of an innovative and dynamic grassroots movement to promote energy efficiency in the Plymouth Area Renewable Energy Initiative (PAREI), the community outreach efforts of the New Hampshire Electric Co-op, headquartered in Plymouth, and supportive town and local elected officials.
In addition to Phillips, Plymouth Energy Committee members include Ray Gosney, Steve Whitman, Steve Kahl, Bob Reals, John Mauchly, Tyler Durham, David Colburn, Brandon Miller and Madeline McElaney.
Voters at Town Meeting in Plymouth once again this year reiterated their commitment to alternative energy by approving warrant articles establishing a more formalized Town Energy Commission to supersede the ad hoc local energy committee and approving a warrant article to establish a tax exemption on the installation of renewable energy systems in Town.
With the action at Town meeting this year, Plymouth became the first town to receive approval from voters for the establishment of a more formalized Energy Commission under new state enabling legislation that came into effect this past September. The Commission will oversee moneys from a newly established municipal energy fund and will assist in administering grant funding for projects in the Town of Plymouth but will have not policy-making authority.
At the regular Select Board meeting this Monday night, Paul Phillips presented the energy committee's recommendation for how to proceed on the establishment of the Plymouth Energy Commission. He reported that the current members of the committee are in unanimous agreement in recommending a six member commission, with 3 alternates, to be appointed by the board in staggered terms of from 1 to 3 years so that revolving membership will be achieved. The Select Board will take up their recommendation at a meeting in the near future.
Plymouth is also waiting to hear about another substantial grant to be awarded under the nationwide Beacon Communities Grant program. Plymouth was chosen by state officials as a "model" community, along with Nashua and Berlin, to compete with other states for New Hampshire's application for the award. Phillips indicated that in keeping with the community wide spirit of the Beacon project, one of the first tasks of the newly established Plymouth Energy Commission would likely be to ask the board to authorize participation in a Plymouth Energy Reduction Council, a public/private partnership bringing together businesses, civic organizations and other stakeholders in a community wide effort to study ways to reduce energy consumption throughout the Town and surrounding area.