Residents of Hanover raise their hands for renewable energy
Originally published on ILSR.org
Hosting an in-person community gathering may be unthinkable these days, but that’s exactly how Hanover, New Hampshire backed its goal of 100% renewable energy in 2017: a show of hands in the high school gym.
For this episode of ours 100% votes series of the Local Energy Rules Podcast, host John Farrell speaks with Hanover, NH Sustainability Director April Salas. They discuss the importance of coalition building, how to take action in a small town and slow down to achieve goals properly.
Listen to the full episode and discover more resources below, including a transcript and summary of the conversation.
All hands on deck in Hanover
Salas has worked on energy policy in the White House and for the United States Department of Energy. When she moved to Hanover in 2016, she says, much of the foundation for clean energy action had already been laid by the community – especially through the Sustainable Hanover Commission.
“It is really my job to be the glue that connects the official work that the city does, in support of the city administrator and those other directors I mentioned in public works and zoning, to what is happening in our Sustainable Hanover committee and our subcommittee on energy. “
In describing the difference between federal and local policy work, Salas says her small town of 11,000 residents is much more nimble. Residents of Hanover gathered for a good cause, set an ambitious goal and can now get started.
Hanover is also home to Dartmouth College (where Salas directs the River Center for Energy). Salas describes the college as an important resource to tap into, both for faculty expertise and energetic students.
First New Hampshire town to be ready for 100
Hanover was the first place in New Hampshire to set a target for 100 percent renewable electricity, with a target date of 2030. Since Hanover made the commitment in 2017, Concord, Keene, Cornish and Plainfield have their own commitments
Hanover’s dedication to 100 was made official at a town hall-style gathering in the high school gymnasium. Participants raised their hands in support of the cause in what Salas describes as a “powerful moment.” She hopes the city can maintain this participatory momentum as they implement the goal.
“Getting there is just as important as it is in itself.”
Rather than taking the ‘municipal operations first’ approach popular with other cities, Hanover’s renewable electricity goal is community-wide. Salas wants renewable electrons that power residents, businesses and municipal operations. The city also has a 2050 target for 100 percent renewable energy for buildings and transportation.
The power to choose renewable energy
Salas lists many of the implementation tools she is counting on to achieve the Hanover goals, including energy efficiency, cold climate heat pumps and local solar power. There is a great opportunity in it community choice energy, a policy tool available in New Hampshire from July 2019.
Learn about how community choice energy empowers communities to center people and the planet our 2020 report
At the time of recording, Salas says Hanover has just joined a community choice aggregation called Community Power Coalition of New HampshireBy joining this coalition, Hanover residents are automatically registered with a new municipal power broker. The governments can purchase renewable energy for their residents and offer it at a lower price than the existing utility company.
“We are still learning”
Salas describes Hanover’s ultimate goal of being “a resilient and healthy community powered by affordable and clean renewable energy.” She says equality has always been part of this vision, but in 2020 the city will re-evaluate its efforts. Hanover sought out national experts and professors from Dartmouth to help them reach more members of the community and ensure that all voices are heard.
“We’ve really pushed the lever over the past year to say, no, not only is this a priority, but it’s also a necessity… we’re willing to slow down a bit so we can take everyone with us.”
Hanover now has a diversity and equity committee to guide the clean energy transition.
Salas’s latest advice is to connect with the other 150 cities and towns that have 100 percent renewable energy pledges. One tool that has helped her is it Network of Directors for Urban Sustainability, which has a flexible pricing plan for small towns with limited budgets.
“Do not be afraid to just ask the questions and try to build that local coalition yourself and contact us differently. We would love to hear from you. “
To learn more about the story, see these resources:
For concrete examples of how cities can take action to take greater control of their clean energy future, check out ILSRs Community Power Toolkit
Discover local and national policies and programs that contribute to promoting clean energy goals across the country, using interactive ILSRs Community power map
This is the 27th episode of our special Votes from series and episode 125 of Local energy regulations, an ILSR podcast with John Farrell, director of energy democracy, which shares powerful stories of successful local renewable energy and exposes policies and practical barriers to its expansion.
Local energy regulations are set by John Farrell and Maria McCoy of ILSR. Audio engineering by Drew Birschbach.
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