Survey says...

Daria Mark, from Good Energy, discusses the results of a survey to assess Keene community members’ thoughts about establishing a community power program. The survey found that the overwhelming majority of respondents were interested in getting more of their electricity from renewable sources.

A survey of more than 100 Keene community members found that most are in favor of getting more of their electricity from renewable sources — especially if it doesn’t make their utility bill go up.

A pair of informational meetings Tuesday gave members of the public a chance to learn more about the city’s proposed community power program. The initiative would allow Keene to purchase electricity on behalf of residents and business owners, giving it more control over where this energy comes from.

Pitched as an opt-out plan, the community power program would make the city the default electricity supplier in Keene and aims to cut costs for consumers while also delivering a more environmentally friendly product. Power would still be delivered by Eversource, Keene’s current default electricity supplier.

The survey’s questions were published online and in the Monadnock Shopper News by the city and consulting firms Good Energy and Standard Power. According to the results, 92 percent of respondents said they were interested in getting electricity from green sources, and 48 percent said they’d be willing to pay more for it.

“Overall, the objectives are to create more consumer choice, more opportunity for folks to pursue renewable sources of electricity,” said Community Development Director and Assistant City Manager Rhett Lamb at the Tuesday evening meeting, held via Zoom. “And to pay strong attention to price and cost and provide better options for how you purchase your electricity.”

The community power program is a key piece of the city’s sweeping energy plan to transition everyone in Keene entirely to renewable sources for their electricity by 2030 and for heating and transportation energy by 2050. Last week, the City Council approved the plan, which was developed by Keene’s Energy and Climate Committee over the past two years.

Daria Mark of Good Energy said the survey reached community members from across income levels, and in each category, the majority of respondents expressed a strong interest in having access to more green electricity.

The survey, which ran from Dec. 8 to Jan. 7, showed that the willingness to pay more fluctuated among income levels, but in all cases, those who said they’re uninterested in using more renewable energy were squarely in the minority — only 17 percent among those earning less than $50,000 per year, 1 percent in the $50,000 to $99,000 income bracket and 8 percent of those making $100,000 or more.

“There’s definitely a very strong interest in Keene to bring renewable energy into the electricity supply,” Mark said.

Thirteen percent of survey respondents were currently getting their power from a third-party supplier, rather than Eversource. Mark said survey participants indicated the reasons for this were a desire to lower their electricity bills and to get their energy from renewable sources.

This is something the consultants and the city will keep in mind as they continue to put the finishing details on the community power plan that will be unveiled online on Feb. 5, according to Mark.

Though the plan is still not entirely finished, consultants at Tuesday’s information session discussed some of its elements. Good Energy’s Patrick Roche explained that there would be three different products that consumers could choose from. The standard product would increase the amount of energy coming from renewable sources by 5 to 10 percent over the state’s minimum requirements.

“We’ve designed this default product to sort of try to be a win-win economically and environmentally,” Roche said. “So it adds some extra renewable energy on top of the state standards, and it also tries to be competitive against Eversource’s default service, pricing and hopefully have some savings.”

There would also be two optional products: a 100 percent renewable option that would cost a bit more than the usual electricity bill and a more affordable product that wouldn’t exceed the state’s renewable-energy requirements.

After the draft plan is released, the public review process will begin, according to Mark. However, she said community members are welcome to reach out to the city to provide input at any time. She said a public hearing will be held sometime in late March, and after that, the team will consider the public feedback in finalizing the plan. It will then be submitted to the city’s community power committee — which has been tasked with developing the plan — for a vote.

Mark noted that the state is still finalizing its regulations for community power programs — after just starting to allow them in 2019 — and Keene’s program won’t be able to go into effect until that happens. Once the state’s rules are in place, Keene’s plan will be sent to the City Council for consideration.

Anyone interested in subscribing to the city’s mailing list for community power updates can do so by visiting ci.keene.nh.us, clicking “sign up for updates” at the very bottom of the home page and selecting the community power option.

Mia Summerson can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1435, or msummerson@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @MiaSummerson