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Berlin to get a slice of $10 million

April 28, 2010
CONCORD — The governor announced last week that three New Hampshire cities, one of them Berlin, were awarded a $10 million federal grant to become models of energy efficiency for other New Hampshire communities.

The money comes from the Retro-fit Ramp Up Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. The communities coordinated with the state Office of Energy and Planning in December of last year to file the application.

The money will be used to fund the state's Beacon Communities Project, which will develop energy saving infrastructure in Berlin, Plymouth and Nashua to showcase to other New Hampshire cities and towns what they can do.

"The Beacon Communities Project will allow the communities of Nashua, Berlin and Plymouth to embark on large-scale energy efficiency projects," the press release from the governor's office said, "which will save homeowners, businesses and taxpayers on energy costs."

The application requested $20 million, with the hope of leveraging $33 million more immediately from other sources and $133 million for the project over the next six years. It's unclear how the award, half of the original request, will affect the communities' ability to leverage more funds.

It's also unclear how the $10 million will be divided.

"It's hard to say how much work we will be able to do, how many partners we will be able to help," City Planner Pam Laflamme said in an email, "but $10 million among three communities is a wonderful thing to have to figure out."

Mrs. Laflamme compiled and wrote the Berlin portion of the application late last fall.

The city will focus the project's efforts on the downtown and the North Woods mobile home park, the application said, both of which could use significant improvement of their energy efficiency.

"The idea is an energy ramp up/retro fit, working with many partners — Androscoggin Valley Hospital, White Mountains Community College, the Mobile Home Cooperative, residents, businesses — and work on energy efficiency measures through retrofitting," Mrs. Laflamme said.

One of the primary focuses will be insulating buildings, the application said, to save energy heating buildings.

"New Hampshire ranks an abysmal 49 out of 51 in the country for average total home energy burden for households below 50 percent of poverty level," the grant application said. "The Beacon Communities Project will play an important role in reducing the burden of energy costs for our low and middle income residents."

The project is being spearheaded by the state Office of Energy and Planning. It grew 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 found the grant, connected with the communities and filed the application in about two weeks in early December, giving the communities much less prep time than they normally get.

The OEP will have a large role in whatever projects the money funds, Mrs. Laflamme said, but she intends to focus efforts on the downtown and multifamily units.

But, she said, the details still have to be worked out, including how things will be split up with the other Beacon communities.

"I imagine we will all get together very soon," she said.

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