Harrisville, like Keene, to resubmit community power plan when state rulemaking concludes

·3 min read

Jun. 22—HARRISVILLE — The town's community power plan was denied earlier this year amid the ongoing rulemaking process for such programs, but the final plan will not need to be brought in front of a town meeting before being resubmitted, according to a member of Harrisville's Electric Aggregation Committee.

Harrisville submitted its plan to the N.H. Public Utilities Commission in November 2021 and was denied without prejudice in January, according to documents from the commission. The PUC'S rulemaking process for community power plans began in January and is slated to finish next month.

Under a community power agreement — such as the ones Keene adopted last year, and Swanzey, Marlborough Walpole and Peterborough approved earlier this year — a municipal government rather than a utility sources electricity for local consumers. This gives the municipality more control over the power supply, allowing it to seek lower-cost or greener options, while a utility continues to maintain transmission lines and deliver the electricity.

The PUC decision said Harrisville's plan lacked specificity in regard to the protection of customer data. Harrisville's plan says the town will maintain the confidentiality of its customers, and the data cannot be shared under N.H.'s Right-to-Know law (RSA 91-A).

"The [PUC] requires additional detail on the scope and nature of the customer data that will be in the possession, custody, and control of Harrisville or its suppliers and vendors, and the protective measures that will be utilized to protect that data from unauthorized access, use, destruction, modification, or disclosure," the memorandum said.

The PUC also said the plan does not meet rules that the commission has not yet set. The PUC denied Keene's proposal for similar reasons on June 9, and like Harrisville, plans to resubmit a final plan when the rules are established.

"Our application came in before the rules were made," Andrew Maneval, a member of the Harrisville electric aggregation committee, said. "When [the rulemaking] goes through ... we will be putting our plan forward."

These PUC's proposed rules are scheduled for a final vote on July 5, after which Harrisville plans to make minor tweaks to its plan ahead of resubmission, Maneval said.

Harrisville's community power agreement, which voters approved at town meeting in May 2021, is part of a program that aims to pool the electric use of residents, business and property owners and give consumers more of a say in where the electricity comes from and how much it costs. Legislation allowing for community power plans took effect in 2019.

Maneval, who is also a Democratic state representative, said after making "fairly minor" changes in the plan, the selectboard will begin rolling out the plan, which would include public meetings with partners and town residents.

Maneval said this will take effect in spring 2023, "if we're lucky, spring 2024 if we're not."

Meanwhile, energy costs continue to soar, driven partially by high oil and natural gas prices stemming from Russia's war in Ukraine. Liberty Utilities and Eversource are both moving forward with plans to increase rates for residential customers in the coming months, which would raise electric bills by close to 50 percent.

Tom Benoit can be reached at tbenoit@keenesentinel.com.