Hanover Committee Embraces New 2050 Energy Goal for Town

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/5/2017 12:11:24 AM

Hanover — The Sustainable Hanover Committee last month voted to endorse a pledge to transition the town to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, which would include power for electricity, heat and transportation.

Hanover officials and members of the Sierra Club Upper Valley Group, whose national parent launched the nationwide “Ready for 100” campaign that spurred the resolution, are hoping to gain the Selectboard’s endorsement and put a similar measure on the Town Meeting ballot. That would make Hanover the first New Hampshire town to make such a commitment, they said.

“If we have the will to do this, we can do this,” Yolanda Baumgartner, co-chairwoman of the Sustainable Hanover Committee, said in an interview on Wednesday. “And I think that’s what the Ready for 100 campaign is about.”

Twenty-two percent of Hanover’s energy use, including Dartmouth College’s energy consumption, already comes from renewable sources, according to a Dec. 15 news release from the Sierra Club Upper Valley.

Town leaders this week said the move to promote sustainable energy was, in part, a response to a national political scene that is becoming increasingly unfavorable to renewables.

President-elect Donald Trump has on occasion denied that climate change is real and manmade, as the vast majority of scientists have concluded. He also has nominated a climate change denier to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We can’t, nor do we want to, wait until times get better in terms of the national political scene in terms of recognizing climate change and supporting efforts to pursue sustainability,” Town Manager Julia Griffin said.

Griffin predicted that the coming years will see federal-level renewable incentives “virtually eliminated,” leaving communities to take up the burden.

“If we do not, we further imperil our environment,” she said, “and (so) it’s got to happen at a local level.”

The 100 percent renewable drive includes all energy used in town — in businesses, municipal services and private residences and vehicles — and would entail both producing the energy in town and, in large part, purchasing it from sustainable sources elsewhere.

Baumgartner and Griffin acknowledged that meeting the goal will be a challenge — especially, for instance, in encouraging private citizens to switch to electric cars — but said that momentum toward renewables is building in the Upper Valley.

“There’s a lot that’s not under our control,” Baumgartner said; however, she added, federal fuel economy regulations already have started a progression toward more efficient — and more sustainable — cars and fuel systems.

She also noted that several local businesses already have begun to purchase all of their electricity through renewable means, including Hypertherm, Kendal at Hanover and Dartmouth Printing.

The municipal government in Hanover is well on its way to the goal, Griffin said. Officials have installed solar panels on the roof of the police department, she said, and arrays may appear atop Town Hall, public schools and the Howe Library.

Using solar power is even more economical for a town than for a business or resident, the town manager said, which means Hanover is hoping to lay down as many panels as it can. The panels cost about $1,000 each, she said, and pay for themselves sooner for a town than they do for a business or residence, where payoff takes an average of 11 to 13 years.

“From our perspective, anything that has a payback that is that period of time makes sense to invest in, plus we think it’s important to demonstrate the technology,” Griffin said.

Town officials also are working with Dartmouth College, which last summer launched a sustainability task force that is searching for ways to make the school’s energy use more efficient.

Dartmouth’s energy reforms include a recommendation to switch from its main heating source, steam fueled by No. 6 fuel oil, and to adopt a more efficient hot water heating system.

Griffin this week floated the idea that Dartmouth and the town — and perhaps later, businesses and residents — could coordinate to use the same renewable heating and electricity systems in the coming years.

The Dartmouth sustainability task force will submit its recommendations to the college president by Earth Day, which is April 22.

In response to a question about the school’s energy commitments, Dartmouth College officials on Wednesday said they were “proud to be part of a community working toward a renewable energy future” and noted that the college had helped the town earn EPA recognition for its sustainability work.

“We anticipate the new goals announced at the end of the sustainability planning process will be in alignment with both the town’s efforts and the best available science, and together we will advance our collective community towards a more sustainable energy future,” Rosalie Kerr, director of the school sustainability program and co-chairwoman of the sustainability task force, said in an email.

Last summer, Baumgartner and two town employees visited San Francisco for a conference with 20 cities from around the country that have made the 100 percent renewable pledge.

Their experience, and what they have learned about other communities’ renewable-energy strategies, now will become a means to reach out to other towns that may be interested in joining the Ready for 100 campaign, according to Allyson Samuell, a Sierra Club organizer in Hanover.

Although the Ready for 100 drive doesn’t yet have commitments from other Upper Valley towns, she said, “I think we’ve seen a lot of interest.”

The group’s hope is to have five towns in the area commit to 100 percent by 2018, she said, and to that end Sierra Club organizers have been organizing speaking events and reaching out to local energy committees in an effort to build interest.

Griffin on Tuesday said that the Hanover Selectboard likely would hear a request to endorse the renewable push sometime this month. Petitions for warrant articles at Hanover Town Meeting, which usually falls in May, are due in April, she said.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.

Correction

Dartmouth College's proposed energy reforms include a recommendation to move away from steam heat to a more efficient hot water heating system. An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Dartmouth's heating system.




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