Vote for cost-saving, clean energy
Election Day is around the corner here in Nashua, and we voters have money on our minds.
As a Nashua homeowner and business person, I pay my taxes expecting city officials to spend my hard-earned dollars wisely: Is that new building or piece of equipment the Mayor is proposing really needed? Is City Hall getting the best possible price?
As a parent of three young kids, I also want to know that our education budget is putting students first: Is the Board of Education prioritizing teachers and learning instead of overhead and ancillary services? Are they taking our students’ health and wellbeing into account?
In other words, I want every tax dollar I invest in Nashua to pay off in some way for my family and community – not just today but over the long term.
Which brings me to the topic of energy. Since his election in 2015, Mayor Jim Donchess has been working to save taxpayers money and strengthen our economy and environment through a range of sustainability initiatives. In 2016, the Mayor created Nashua’s first Environment and Energy Committee (on which I was honored to serve as a volunteer) to recommend concrete actions on energy efficiency, transportation and renewable energy generation. He has been busy in each of these areas ever since.
Under the Mayor’s leadership, the City transitioned 5,500 street lights to ultra-efficient LEDs, saving taxpayers more than $300,000 per year in electricity costs. The school district also is considering more than $7 million in lighting and other energy upgrades that could more than pay for themselves while drastically reducing carbon emissions. These and other efficiency projects are being championed by Nashua’s new energy manager, who brings a wealth of private-sector experience from one of Nashua’s leading manufacturers, Worthen Industries.
When it comes to transportation, the mayor recently unveiled two new hybrid electric buses to cut operating costs and pollution, as well as a pair of new public charging stations to encourage zero-emissions vehicles. The city also has deployed hundreds of bikes and electric scooters throughout the community to provide residents with clean and inexpensive transportation alternatives, at no cost to taxpayers.
In addition to energy efficiency and transportation, Donchess has made a concerted push to harness more homegrown renewable energy for economic and environmental reasons. Following the example of local solar-powered nonprofits like the Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter, the mayor and aldermen this year unanimously approved solar Power Purchase Agreements for two city rooftops and the Conway Ice Arena. The projects are financed by local impact investors and generate immediate electricity savings for taxpayers without any capital cost. Conservative projections put the long-term savings from these initial solar projects over $3.75 million, including the cost of ongoing operations/maintenance and an optional purchase from the investor after five years. The panels also will offset more than 600,000 pounds of carbon pollution annually.
After a competitive selection process and multiple public hearings, my employee-owned company was honored to be chosen as Nashua’s installation partner – a continuation of our decade-long effort to make solar more accessible to cities, schools, nonprofits and low-income communities while saving all ratepayers money through reduced transmission costs. We were proud to follow in the footsteps of other local businesses, TurnCycle Solutions and Granite State Solar, which were selected by the city in 2018 to provide discounted solar and weatherization options to Nashua homeowners.
But the benefits of solar energy needn’t stop there. For more than 2.5 years, the Nashua School District staff and mayor have been encouraging the Board of Education to take a hard look at solar for some of our 17 schools, which collectively consume more than five million of kilowatt-hours of electricity every year from non-renewable sources. Although district staff have solicited proposals and public presentations from multiple solar companies, a three-member committee of the board has so far chosen not to let any solar projects be considered by the full board. This, despite the fact that each proposal shows millions of dollars in electricity savings that could be redirected toward the education of our kids, just as the city and other New Hampshire school districts have done.
Now is the time for our elected representatives on the Nashua Board of Education to join the clean energy consensus and consider the full range of energy efficiency and renewable options that will save taxpayers money. In the process, the board will show our students that they take the settled science of our changing climate seriously and are ready to do their part to protect the health and wellbeing of future generations in Nashua.
Four forward-looking candidates for Board of Education are Jennifer Bishop, Sharon Giglio, Renata Olszewski and Jamila Scales – they deserve our support at the polls.
Dan Weeks is co-owner and director of market development for ReVision Energy. He lives in Nashua with his wife and kids.