Frequently asked questions
- Is electricity generated from renewable sources more expensive than what we pay today?
- Will the Renewable Energy resolution affect property taxes?
- Will renewable energy be too expensive or hard to afford for my family or my business?
- Could the resolution bring more job and business opportunities to our region?
- How will we get electricity at night or when the wind is not blowing?
- Is the renewable energy resolution a mandate?
- Is the goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and all energy needs by 2050 realistic and achievable?
- Is Keene the only city thinking about a transition to 100% renewable energy?
- Does all of the energy need to be sourced locally?
- How much energy could be produced locally?
- What are the health benefits of renewable energy?
- How is climate change a factor?
Is electricity generated from renewable sources more expensive than what we pay today?
The cost of natural gas power is tethered to the commodity price of natural gas, which is inherently volatile. The price of controllable, storable renewable energy is tethered only to technology costs, which are going down.
It used to be that electricity from wind and solar was expensive, but costs have dropped exponentially over the past decades. Electricity from wind is now cheaper than any other kind. Electricity from solar panels is becoming cheaper every day. Most of the natural gas-powered electricity is still cheaper than solar, but the price of natural gas fluctuates, going up high in the winter, and the price of solar continues to decline. Since there are no fuel costs for solar and very little maintenance costs, the price of electricity from solar panels is stable.
Sources: “The Levelized Cost of Energy 2017” by Lazard and Forbes Magazine article “Want the cheapest electricity, build solar and wind farms not coal power plants”
Will the Renewable Energy resolution affect property taxes?
Passing the renewable energy resolution may lead to lower property taxes.
Both the state of New Hampshire and the City of Keene offer tax benefits for people and businesses who get their energy from renewable sources.
Renewable Energy Property Tax Exemption: RSA 72:61-72 permits cities and towns to offer exemptions from local property taxes for certain renewable energy installations. These include solar systems (thermal and photovoltaic), wind turbines, and central wood-fired heating systems.
The City of Keene currently offers an exemption for a portion of the assessed value up to $30,000 for solar and an amount equal to the cost including installation up to $10,000 for wind. Learn more about the exemption and other New Hampshire benefits for renewable energy on the state website.
In addition, New Hampshire offers rebates for residential renewable electric generating systems with a generating capacity rated at 10kw or under. Net Metering — the ability to sell back energy that you produce but don’t use to the electric company — also provides economic benefit and helps offset the cost to transition to renewable energy sources.
When we prioritize renewable energy as a community, we can advocate for improvements to taxation, exemption, rebates and net metering legislation.
The City of Keene, Keene State College, and many of our local businesses have made significant investments in energy efficiency and alternative energy supplies with great results. They are saving money, helping the environment, and have more control over their future energy costs. One challenge for Keene is finding ways that we can take the lessons learned by our city, institutions, and businesses and share that knowledge with more businesses and residents of Keene.
Reducing the use of fossil fuels and imported energy strengthens our economy. Since NH does not produce any fossil fuels, we must import them, which means that we are exporting money from our economy to other states or foreign countries.
In 2016, total expenditures on energy in New Hampshire were approximately 9% of state GDP or $6.1 billion. The New Hampshire GDP is $57.34 billion. In 2014 NH has the 2nd highest energy prices in the country. Over $4.9 worth of energy was purchased outside of New Hampshire as the state imports around 60% of its primary energy source. 100% of petroleum, natural gas, and coal is imported.
Producing energy locally (in-state) with solar, hydro, biomass, and wind and then using it efficiently provides a strong foundation for a healthy economy for all NH residents. We should also keep in mind that the development of energy storage systems is making excellent progress. The advancement of affordable battery systems has the potential to allow us all to operate solely on renewable energy sources in the long term.
Will renewable energy be too expensive or hard to afford for my family or my business?
The Renewable Energy Resolution emphasizes making energy efficiency and renewable energy options accessible to businesses and to all residents at every income level.
There are several existing programs that help residents and business owners increase energy efficiency and transition to renewable energy sources.
- NHSAVES – This utility program that offers matching grants to homeowners of inefficient homes to improve them. There is no income qualification for participating in the program It also offers rebates for qualify purchases such as LED light bulbs and Energy Star rated appliances.
- Community Action Program weatherization – Residents who qualify for fuel assistance are often eligible for free weatherization through the area CAP (Community Action Program) agencies.
The renewable energy plan that results from the resolution would determine how best to take advantage of these programs and reach more people to help them benefit. It would also work with stakeholders, businesses, government, and organizations to expand these programs and create new ones.
Investment in energy projects saves money over the long term so the future avoided costs should serve as a form of collateral. The NHSAVES utility program is a step in the right direction. Other states have programs like “green banks” to help finance energy projects.
New ideas, like rating houses for energy efficiency and operating costs should incentivize banks and other lending institutions to innovate loan programs that recognize the value of these investments and treat the future, avoided costs as collateral on the loan.
Solving the funding problem through innovative financing and investment strategies will strengthen Keene’s economy from the bottom up. Residential programs similar to Eversource’s “Smart Start” municipal programs, would allow energy efficiency and weatherization programs to be financed (and still reduce the cost) on the utility bill.
Could the resolution bring more job and business opportunities to our region?
From designing and modifying buildings to become more efficient to producing energy in-state via solar, wind, hydro, biomass, and other emerging technologies, there will be ample work and business opportunities for New Hampshire residents.
A study by the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (2013) found that energy efficiency would create 2,300 jobs and add $160 million to the New Hampshire GDP.
In spite of New Hampshire’s low solar penetration, the 76 MW of installed capacity represents nearly $200 million in direct solar investments since 2013 and 1,051 direct solar industry jobs. An estimated 83 solar companies are currently doing business in New Hampshire, the majority of them installers and developers of residential and commercial solar arrays. New Hampshire could rapidly scale its installed solar capacity by a factor of ten from 0.52% to 5% in the next few years by applying tested and readily-available policy levers — such as this resolution — that will drive private sector investment and jobs while reducing electricity costs.
Wind energy power currently provides electricity to 38,500 homes in New Hampshire. In 2017, wind power projects supported between 100 to 500 direct and indirect jobs, represent a total capital investment of $375 million and were providing $500,000 to $1 million in annual land lease payments.
According to the EIA, hydropower generated 1,145,000 MWh in 2016 in New Hampshire. Annually, small-scale hydropower (5 MW and under) provides about 80 MW of installed capacity and 320,000 MWh of energy statewide. In addition, small hydro plants pay $5 million in property taxes and user fees as well as providing jobs, removing trash from rivers, and maintaining dams that would otherwise fall to the state and towns.
In the biomass sector, according to a study from Plymouth State University, New Hampshire’s six independent biomass power plants contribute to or support over $254 million to the economy and 931 jobs.
Sources: Increasing Energy Efficiency in New Hampshire Realizing our Potential, A 100% Renewable Energy Strategy for New Hampshire’s Future White Paper (Oct. 2018 V.3) and the Solar Energy Industries association New Hampshire solar factsheet
How will we get electricity at night or when the wind is not blowing?
Renewable energy systems need to include some form of energy storage. Batteries are the most common, but there are many other kinds of technology in development. Already, communities in the USA and around the world are installing battery storage systems to save solar energy for nighttime use. The price of these systems are dropping rapidly. Just recently the cost of batteries has become cheaper than the cost of building and running a new natural gas peaker plant. (“Peaker plants” are gas-fired power plants that generate electricity only when demand is high, such as in the evening.)
Source: Article in Electrek by solar consultant John Fitzgerald Weaver
Is the renewable energy resolution a mandate?
It’s not a mandate. The resolution calls for the City of Keene to develop a strategic plan by April 2020 to meet the renewable energy goal “through a transparent and inclusive stakeholder process.” That process will facilitate broad dialogue, both within the community and drawing on the experience of other communities to develop realistic steps to achieve the 100% goal.
The current proven economic advantages of energy efficiency and renewable energy supply mean that we can begin a transition to a renewable energy economy. Through the stakeholder process, the Keene community would pioneer ways to collaboratively find innovative solutions that are both economical and attractive enough to be widely adopted without mandates.
We would be joining nearly 100 pioneering communities nationwide in making a pledge to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2050. Some of those communities have already achieved that goal or are well on their way. We can learn from them and add to the combined body of knowledge to help other communities in the Monadnock Region follow Keene’s lead.
The resolution is not a push to subsidize any income group or program but to effectively and persuasively redirect investment from imported fossil fuels to locally sourced energy efficiency and generation. Locally invested dollars lead to more good-paying jobs and disposable income that strengthens the local economy and supports entrepreneurship.
Is the goal of 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and all energy needs by 2050 realistic and achievable?
Existing and emerging technologies make the 100% renewable energy goal achievable and offer economic benefits and opportunities.
Energy efficiency – As Bob King of Ashuelot River Hydro reminded Keene at the Sept. 8 rally for Climate Jobs and Justice, “The cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use.” Through numerous efficiency measures implemented over the past 20 years, the City of Keene decreased emissions from municipal operations by 25% while cutting operating costs significantly. Homes and businesses can often reduce their energy needs 20-30% through weatherization and other efficiency measures.
Locally produced renewable – Already many area businesses and homes are powered with clean energy through competitive electricity suppliers. The Monadnock Food Co-op’s solar panels generate 50,000-kilowatt hours per year. Keene State College, the Savings Bank of Walpole, Target, MOCO, and the Keene Unitarian Universalist Church are all generating solar energy. The City is installing a 660-kilowatt solar array on the Police and Public Works facility on Marlboro Street. This will bring the community’s total solar generation to about 2 megawatts.
Lowering costs with energy storage – Other municipalities and states have demonstrated that increasingly-affordable battery storage can lower peak demand charges for utility customers. Using a distributed battery network, Green Mountain Power is saving Vermont customers money — $600,000 was saved by using stored power during a heat spike in August, for example.
Wind power and beyond – New Hampshire obtains more of its electricity generation from wind power than from coal-fired power plants, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration, a trend that could expand greatly with offshore wind.
Innovation over time – The plan we will develop between now and 2020 will be flexible enough to incorporate new technologies and opportunities over the next 10 to 30 years as we transition to renewable energy. New technologies will continue to be created, offering solutions we have yet to imagine.
Check out potential Renewable energy plans developed by Keene State College.
Is Keene the only city thinking about a transition to 100% renewable energy?
Not at all! We would be the fifth community in New Hampshire to do so. According to the Sierra Club, about 99 cities in the USA have committed to the 100% renewable energy goal. Note that these are commitments that all energy used by anyone in the city limits will be renewable. Some states and Puerto Rico have committed to 100% renewable energy.
Other cities have committed to meeting all municipal government energy needs with renewable energy such as Albuquerque, NM.
Does all of the energy need to be sourced locally?
No, we can source our energy from elsewhere in New Hampshire, other nearby states or further away, however, locally generated renewable energy keeps the energy dollars circulating locally. New Hampshire obtains more of its electricity generation from wind power than from coal-fired power plants, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration, a trend that could expand greatly with offshore wind.
The Independent System Operator of New England ISO-NE estimates that as of this year already, New England already has 5,400 MW of proposed wind power on the table already. As turbine technologies become more efficient and the costs of installing wind capacity continue to fall, overall wind power costs could drop by as much as 50 percent by 2030, according to a new Department of Energy study released earlier this year.
The Granite State Power Link, a project proposed by National Grid and Citizens Energy, proposes to deliver 1,200 MW of wind energy from Canada to New England.
Sources: Boston Magazine article “3 ways New England’s wind energy is winning”
How much energy could be produced locally?
Many of Keene’s businesses and organizations are already generating power locally and have plans to continue. The Monadnock Food Co-op’s solar panels generate 50,000-kilowatt hours per year. Keene State College, the Savings Bank of Walpole, Target, MOCO, and the Keene Unitarian Universalist Church are all generating solar energy. The City is installing a 660-kilowatt solar array on the Police and Public Works facility on Marlboro Street. This will bring the community’s total solar generation to over 2 megawatts.
The recently installed Bensonwood solar generation system on the roof of their Production Avenue facility is expected to produce 40% of the electricity needed at their manufacturing facility. And there is room on the roof for more!
Keene housing adds solar panels on apartments at Harper’s Acres March 2018. “Keene Housing has two long-term goals: reduce overall energy and water consumption by 20 percent across the organization by 2025 and meet all energy needs with renewables by 2035.”
Sources: Keene Sentinel article “Harper Acres solar project part of Keene Housing’s renewable-energy goals,” letters of support from Keene businesses
What are the health benefits of renewable energy?
Use of renewable energy and clean transportation avoids harmful air emissions, which ultimately has a positive effect on human health and significantly reduces health care costs. A study by Lawrence Berkeley Lab at the University of California found that wind and solar power in the United States reduced sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide (smog), and particulate emissions (soot) by over a million tons, and those emission reductions helped avoid 7,000 premature deaths. Those avoided deaths, along with other public health impacts, are worth a cumulative $56 billion.
How is climate change a factor?
The problem of climate change may seem far away but Keene is already experiencing its effects. The Northeast is experiencing and will continue to experience an increased frequency and intensity of rainfall. The Northeast is warming faster than the rest of the continental U.S. and models are projecting that we will warm 2 degrees C two decades before global average temperatures reach that level.
Check out this recent article published in the Keene Sentinel for more details about the local effects: “National report adds urgency to local efforts to address climate change.”
Source: Chapter 18 of The National Climate Assessment, “The North East”