Meeting Minutes of the Select Board

 Location:  Town offices Date:  December 10, 2020  
 Opened:    7:00 pm Adjourned:  9:45 pm  


Select Board Members:  Jay Jacobs, Kathy Scott, Andrea Hodson _____

 Attendees from the Electric Aggregation Committee (EAC) via zoom: Andrew Maneval, Ned Hulbert, Doug Gline, Amy Roberts, Henry Herndon; Members of the publicvia zoom: Earl Horn, Les LaMois, Jack Calhoun, Beth Healy, Winston Sims, Sherry Sims, Eric Swope, Barbara Watkins, Edwin Brooks, Ginny Brooks, George Lowrey, Leslie Voiers, Erin Hammerstedt, Anne Howe, Doug Walker, Mary Day Mordecai, John Evans, Peggy Evans, Pegg Monahan, Lisa Anderson, Sue Weller, Kathy Bollerud, Noel Greiner, Heribert Tryba, Solveig Tryba, Harry Wolhandler

Electric Aggregation Committee members absent: Colin Kennard, Ryan Stone

Public Hearing
At 7:00 pm, Jay Jacobs opened the public hearing on the Electric Aggregation Committee project. Andrea Hodson reviewed housekeeping items, explaining to attendees how to submit a chat question, and where to find information on the Community Power page of the town website, which includes copy of the EA plan, an explanatory video and a survey.

Ned Hulbert thanked the SB for its support and thanked committee members for all their work.  Committee members were introduced. The only non-Harrisville member, Henry Herndon, was noted for his contributions as a technical adviser. Mr. Hulbert then offered background on the initiative, citing the enabling legislation passed in late fall 2019 and the goal of the project, which is delivery of electrical power to all interested residents at a reduced rate by aggregating with other towns and entities, with options for more renewable energy sources and for the establishment of a capital reserve fund. The EAC has spoken to a few different energy brokers, noted in the draft EAC plan.

Mr. Hulbert explained that, if the Community Power plan passes at Town Meeting, it would provide 3 sets of service not available currently through Eversource, as follows:

  • Bulk rate for power per kw hour;
  • 3 tiers of service with varying portions of ‘green” power available; and
  • A Reserve Fund, the ability to set aside money for future purchasing and local energy projects in Harrisville, including weatherization and training of interested tradespeople.

Committee members took turns expressing their reasons for joining the project initiative. Mentioned were the unique opportunity presented to towns, the opportunity for savings and choice in electrical power supply, the opportunity to mitigate the effects of climate change, the synchronicity with the mission of the town’s Master Plan, the chance to increase use of renewable energy sources, the chance for towns to enhance control of purchasing options and the potential to establish of a reserve fund to support local energy initiatives.

Questions from attendees
Explanation of smart-metering – EAC member Doug Gline explained the concept of smart-metering, which allows users and suppliers to gauge demand on the electrical grid and the peak and off peak usage, and to react to demand on the system in real-time; in effect, as described by Jack Calhoun, it’s a system optimization tool.

Anticipated savings over what period of time – The committee noted an exact number is difficult to calculate; however, the default level of the plan would be offered at a competitive rate to Eversource’s. In addition, the town would have buying power.  Eversource will still act as distributor.

How the plan would work with net-metering? Can customers/residents opt in or opt out? -Henry Herndon explained that anyone may opt out should they choose and that ratepayers can continue to maintain control over net-metering rates. The EAC is confident the Community Power plan would surpass Eversource’s, and individuals with solar arrays can put their earned kw hours back into the grid, thus accruing to the town’s benefit.

Will the town need to hire an administrator to oversee the program? – Andrea Hodson explained that the proposed EA plan involves administrative work through a partner entity, not the town. The committee has spoken to 3 entities which offer different services. If the plan is adopted by voters, the Select Board will work with the EAC to find the right entity/vendor to meet the service plan targets and parameters.

Regarding the committee’s choice of an “opt-out” versus an “opt-in” model – Andrew Maneval emphasized that all ratepayers under the plan will have the right to opt out at any time and to go back to the default provider, which is Eversource. He added that, if the plan passes at Town Meeting, all voters will be notified of their ability to opt out. The committee discussed both options at length and feel the program will be more successful, with greater participation, under the “opt-out” model.

Who would talk to other towns about joining up?  – The EAC explained that some vendors would have this responsibility and that many already (in the Upper Valley and Nashua areas, for example) are working together to pool purchasing power. Henry Herndon noted that, in Cheshire County, the county is focused on electric supply to county facilities but not residences and businesses, but that they are considering a model that could be replicated by other towns.

Why are Eversource rates so high in NH? – EAC members explained that high transmission costs are one factor, as well as the fact that New England is at the “end of the pipeline”, and we import our fuels. We don’t produce energy ourselves. Weather and climate are other factors.

Will the EA/Community Power Plan save homeowners from their own private investments? – The plan would not cover private costs for private infrastructure; however, the EAC members explained it might encourage more investment by homeowners in private systems that could lower the amount of energy private users would need to purchase and would increase the use of renewable energy sources. The reserve fund would, however, aid in energy generating systems.

Who decides which plan level the town would go with? – Ned Hulbert stated that, ultimately, households would decide, but the options available will be based on input the committee receives from community residents.

Is the Reserve Fund for the community’s benefit? – The EAC noted that this is the case in that benefits accrue to the community only. Residents could apply for assistance for weatherization, as could a tradesperson wishing to learn how to install or maintain a certain system. The goal of the fund is to assist with projects related to the intent of the Community Power initiative.

Is there an initial cost to the town for this plan? – No.

How would this positively or negatively affect Eversource?  The EAC believes it would lose business. However, as a utility they are generally indifferent as to who generates electricity; they’re getting paid for their poles and wires. The committee does not believe the plan conflicts with their business model.

Is this essentially a cooperative, much like a farmers’ cooperative, with group buying of a product? – Essentially, yes.

Following the question and answer session, all attendees expressed support for the plan. Many also thanked the committee from attendees and the select board, and applauded the committee for looking to the future to address energy and climate problems. They further thanked the committee for all their leg work to research cheaper rates from an energy broker/3rdparty and expressed excitement about renewables.

Several attendees very much encouraged the committee to simplify the presentation for public consideration, given the complexity of the material and abundance of information.

Jay Jacobs reiterated that he does not believe this is the year to bring this forward to the town, and that the plan needs more work. Kathy Scott noted she is in favor so far.

The committee encouraged anyone with questions to please contact them.

Jay Jacobs then closed the public hearing, and the Select Board proceeded with its business.

SB signed the pay warrant in the amount of $806,083.52.

SB signed meeting minutes of 12-3-2020.

Blood Hill Road / Class VI roads – SB noted that any work done along right of way and boundaries of Class VI roads must be discussed first with town officials. SB will draft a letter to residents of these roads stating this. The SB further reminds residents that stone walls are boundary lines and under state law may not be altered or moved.

City of Keene – The SB signed the commitment letter to participate in Keene’s household hazardous waste program, allowing Harrisville residents to dispose of hazardous waste at the Keene facility under their guidelines and schedule.

South Road Bridge Wing Wall Repair – the board discussed that the wing walls of the old bridge need repair and discussed preparing an RFP. The SB will consider this for the 2021 budget.

Annual Report – The office will obtain an estimate to print this year’s Annual Report and will ask department chairs and board and committee chair to submit their year-end summaries by January 15, 2021.

Town Meeting – in light of Covid19, the SB will review NHMA’s information regarding Town Meeting options.