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Donchess says new plan would cut electric bills

NASHUA – City officials are considering exploration of a Community Choice Power program, which they said once implemented, could reduce electric bills for residents and businesses by about $150 per year.

Mayor Jim Donchess plans to introduce the legislation during the next Board of Aldermen meeting, set for 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Aldermanic Chamber of City Hall, 229 Main St.

The legislation endeavors to establish a five-member committee to explore the program. He said city leaders are confident they can undertake this initiative successfully, but still want to have the committee evaluate the process.

Assuming the legislation is enacted, the committee will include one BOA member, the city’s Energy Manager, the mayor, and two additional community members appointed by the mayor.

Donchess said this could probably take a month. He believes the study phase could be completed fairly quickly from there.

“We believe we can save people a significant amount of money, but they don’t have to participate if they don’t want to,” Donchess said.

That is where the word choice is key because anyone who wants to opt out of this new plan could do so, therefore, returning to Eversource Energy rates. Donchess said the new initiative is authorized by the New Hampshire Legislature, and the state legislation enables Nashua to purchase power in bulk for all Eversource residential and business customers.

Via the plan, Eversource would continue delivering and distributing electricity, and would bill customers. The only difference Nashua consumers would notice is a decline in their cost per kilowatt-hour

Donchess said there are about 39,000 households in the city, with the vast majority of them serviced by Eversource. As far as businesses go, any business of any size who is still an Eversource customer would be included in this power program, although they have the option to exit.

Presently, the average consumer is paying a rate of 18 cents per kilowatt-hour. Officials believe that by purchasing in bulk, they can buy power for about 2 cents per kilowatt-hour cheaper -16 cents a kilowatt-hour.

“With Community Choice Power, we can potentially save over $20 million in reduced electric bills for Nashua residents and small businesses over the next four years,” Donchess stated via news release.

On the phone Friday, Donchess also said those savings could accumulate to somewhere between $20 and $25 million for Nashua consumers during the next four years.

A similar energy movement has also begun in eight other states, including Massachusetts. Nashua’s efforts could help influence how this is implemented across New Hampshire, he added.

Nashua Energy Manager Doria Brown said estimates show the average household is spending $1,356 per year on electricity at 18 cents per kilowatt-hour. She said cutting that rate to 16 cents would save the average customer $150 per year.

“I think it’s a huge opportunity for Nashua to sort of be on the forefront for a new movement when it comes to taking back the choices of where residents and small business owners get their power from, and how we can regulate a deregulated market,” Brown said.

Before city officials embark on this opportunity, the BOA will take up this proposal to establish the committee. The current plan is for the committee to then make a recommendation to the board regarding the program.

In the meantime, Nashua officials are already involved in the energy market, both as a buyer and a seller of power. Both the city and the Nashua School District purchase power from third-party supply. In addition, the city sells the power from the Mine Falls and Jackson Falls hydroelectric facilities, which are located in the Nashua River.

Donchess said legislators in Concord enabled this opportunity during their last session, and that this is something he has been considering for a few months.

Brown said the city would act as the community’s energy broker, and the way that works is when a broker negotiates a deal with someone for a third-party supply, they collect commission for bringing a customer to the supplier. This opportunity would work the same way. The commission collected then goes into the program.

Brown believes during the course of a year, that revenue could accumulate to about $300,000, which would result in $1.2 million during four years. That revenue could then fund green energy projects, such as solar panels around the city.

Adam Urquhart may be contacted at 594-1206, or at aurquhart@nashuatelegraph.com.

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