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A New Spark: Mayor introduces legislation to reduce electricity costs

By ADAM URQUHART | Jan 15, 2020

NASHUA – Mayor Jim Donchess introduced new legislation Tuesday aimed at reducing Eversource Energy electric bills for city residents and businesses.

Two new faces sat around the horseshoe for the first regular meeting of 2020: Ward 6 Alderwoman Elizabeth Lu and Ward 8 Alderman Skip Cleaver. They attended their first meeting after being elected in November.

Resolution 20-009, introduced by Donchess, seeks to explore a Community Choice Power program, which is a program authorized by the New Hampshire Legislature that enables communities to purchase power in bulk on behalf of all Eversource residential and business customers. This new legislation would allow for a seven-member committee to study the concept.

It was previously reported that this would be a five-member committee. However, the legislation put forth during the meeting shows it with seven slots, with those being for the mayor, the city’s energy manager, a BOA member appointed by the board president, and four individuals appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the board.

Establishing an Electric Aggregation Committee could take about a month, but Donchess believes the study phase can start quickly after that. The committee will be tasked with developing an electric aggregation plan.

“If we undertake this project, we can save about two cents a kilowatt (per kilowatt hour) on average on every Eversource bill, which for a residential consumer, could be about $150 a year depending on their usage, of course,” Donchess said on Tuesday. “It could be more for a small business or even a medium-sized business.”

Eversource will continue delivering and distributing electricity, and billing these customers. The only difference Nashua consumers should notice would be a decline in price, officials said.

With about 39,000 households in the city, of which the vast majority are with Eversource, Donchess believes a significant amount of money can be saved. However, the word choice is key, since people may opt out of the program if they choose.

Currently, the average consumer annually is paying a rate of 18 cents per kilowatt hour. Officials believe this number could drop to 16 cents per kilowatt hour with bulk purchasing. Donchess believes this program can save more than $20 million in electricity costs during the next four years.

Eight other states have also begun similar energy movements, including Massachusetts. The city’s efforts could help influence how this is implemented across New Hampshire. In the meantime, the city is already involved in the energy market, both as a buyer and a seller of power.

“The city, of course, is already purchasing and selling energy,” Donchess said. “We purchase bulk for the city under a single contract, and the school department does the same thing. We also sell power from our hydroelectric dams (Mine Falls and Jackson Falls).”

“I think, as we begin to get into the details of the project, you will be convinced that it’s a way that we can save $20 (million) or $25 million for Nashua consumers over the next four years,” Donchess said.

After its first reading, the resolution was referred to the Personnel and Administrative Affairs Committee. Once the committee is formed, and members study this idea, they will then make a recommendation to the board regarding whether to proceed with the program.

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

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