Revised renewable energy goal to go before Concord City Council

Monitor staff
Published: 7/7/2018 10:37:24 PM

Supporters of a goal to have 100 percent renewable energy in Concord say an updated resolution will still achieve its desired impact, despite language changes that cut the resolution’s length in half.

On Monday night, the Concord City Council will consider adopting a revised version of a resolution they last saw in May that would have directed the city administration to work toward the goal in conjunction with the Concord Energy and Environment Committee, and a stakeholder committee, along with state and federal government.

The goal of the resolution is to have Concord work toward getting all of its electricity from renewable resources by 2030 and that all transportation and thermal energy will be renewably sourced by 2050.

However, the goal has changed quite a bit: references to the goal as a city “policy” have been removed, and the onus for developing a plan is now squarely on the Concord Energy and Environment Committee (CEEC) – the city’s administration isn’t mentioned at all, except to note strides the city has already taken to be green.

The resolution also emphasizes that the goal is purely aspirational and “shall not be construed to either impose any mandate on the City or its residents and businesses,” according to the resolution.

City Councilor Rob Werner, who chairs the CEEC, said the proposal is still a “stake in the ground” measure that will generate community buy-in. He said he expects it to pass Monday night.

“I don’t see it as a significant change,” he said of the revision. “My feeling is it will involve the community and get them enthused on a community level.”

The community includes businesses and nonprofits, Werner went on to say, who he said will be incentivized to move toward renewable sources as costs come down in the future.

“Just because it’s aspirational in nature, that’s not an impediment to reaching the goal,” he said.

The resolution has the support of Concord Hospital and SEIU Local 1984, along with the Conservation Law Foundation.

But some members of the business community felt differently.

David Rauseo, whose company Interchange Crossing, LLC, is looking to develop a large parcel of land off Interstate 93’s Exit 17, voiced concerns in an email to Ward 1 City Councilor Brent Todd that the campaign was “destined to fail without knowledge of viable solutions” and a better understanding of the available technology or higher electric and heating costs.

“Does Concord have the will to permit deforestation and impact large tracts of undeveloped land for the construction of sizable solar arrays to accommodate this need locally?” he wrote on May 17.

Rauseo went on to say waste incineration company Wheelabrator, one of the biggest taxpayers for Penacook, will not be “aided by this resolution,” and he questioned whether his tenants at Concord Crossing and other potential tenants “will survive this mandate” without technology to accommodate their needs.

Rauseo did not respond to a phone call requesting comment.

The original resolution had language that specifically excluded “energy derived from fossil fuels, nuclear, incineration of municipal and medical waste,” along with future large-scale hydroelectric development.

Rauseo’s not the only one to bring up Wheelabrator in the discussion; Mayor Jim Bouley mentioned it during a May 14 city council meeting.

“Their interpretation is this is trying to shut them down,” he said at the time.

Bouley recently said he had not heard from Wheelabrator when he made that statement. But he stressed it was important to get community buy-in before making big commitments. He pointed to the pay-as-you-throw purple bags as an example – the city went through 11 different options before the measure was adopted, he said.

Wheelabrator did not respond to a request for comment.

And while Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce president Tim Sink said the chamber has always supported the “spirit” of the ordinance, concerns about establishing a “policy” without safeguards if renewable energy technology doesn’t end up being economically friendly kept them from endorsing outright.

“If you look at what the community has gone through with the shutting down of Concord Steam and the conversion to natural gas, it created a burden,” he said. “There was an expense to businesses, offices and residents alike. We wanted to make sure people weren’t put in a position like that again.”

The chamber has since endorsed the new resolution, Sink said.

And while there have been concerns that the resolution does not really have a roadmap – it was referred to Concord’s Fiscal Policy Advisory Committee because city councilors wanted a better idea of what the financial implications could be – CEEC member and Rath, Young & Pignatelli lawyer Chuck Willing said that’s kind of the idea.

“We wanted the resolution to be adopted before the plan,” he said. “A plan would set some fairly specific recommendations; logically, we should decide on where we want to go, first.”

Later, Willing added: “We understand that it needs to be aspirational at this point, because the binding part can only come when certain steps are proposed. ... To make a transition like this, you need to go one step at a time. We’ll be taking many along the way, and this is the first step.”

The city council meets at
7 p.m. Monday.

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