Concord City Council discusses greener goals for the city’s energy

  • Members of the public listen to a presentation about the Ready for 100% Renewable Energy campaign from the Concord Energy and Environment Committee on Monday, Feb. 12, 2018. Caitlin Andrews—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Monday, February 12, 2018

The dozens of people packed into the Concord City Council’s chambers Monday night were there for one thing: to support a greener future.

“How many of you are here tonight for this item?” Mayor Jim Bouley asked the patient crowd, many of them wearing marigold-yellow buttons reading “CLEAN ENERGY FOR ALL.”

In a single motion, the crowd’s hands lifted.

They were supporting the Ready for 100% Renewable Energy Campaign, a goal-driven initiative coming out of Concord’s Energy and Environment Committee that would strive to have the city operating on 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

It’s a goal that’s been acknowledged as ambitious by Ward 5 Councilor Rob Werner, who chairs the committee, since the campaign kicked off in October. And while how the city would get to that goal is still conceptual at this point, the night’s discussion focused on whether adopting the plan would have immediate impacts.

Advocates foresaw only positive results. Chuck Willing, a member of the committee and a shareholder in Rath, Young and Pignatelli, a firm that represents energy industries, said adopting the goal would establish Concord as a leader in the state: In New Hampshire, only Hanover has committed to a 100 percent renewable campaign, Willing said. Plainfield and Cornish will be debating whether to adopt the initiative during their town meetings this year.

“It’s up to municipalities to act,” he said. “We can try more things and be more nimble than states and the federal government.”

The campaign would also benefit the city economically by creating more jobs and opening up opportunities for the city to generate its power within its borders, Willing said.

But councilors had questions about how, exactly, the city would make this happen.

At-Large Councilor Mark Coen asked whether the committee had considered the cost of the goal, particularly on the city’s end. He noted that the committee’s 100-page white paper on the subject included a note that Madison, Wis., allocated $250,000 to create a staff that developed how their renewable campaign would play out.

Werner said the discussion around cost is still conceptual, and that while no new staff may be needed, he stressed the importance of having formal support from the city if the goal is to be achieved.

Ward 3 Councilor Jennifer Kretovic worried that accepting the report would send the wrong message to residents who are not in favor of having clean energy generators in their backyards.

Residents on West Portsmouth Street faced the possibility of having a new 54-acre solar farm installed on agricultural land until the proposal was tabled last week at a Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting due to uncertainty about zoning regulations.

Willing said part of the goal would be to discuss how clean energy facilities would be zoned and where they would be located.

The committee is set to present a formal resolution to the council this spring, Werner said.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)