Sandwich, NH: A Solar Array and Saving Taxpayer Money

Nov. 1, 2022

Sandwich townspeople, the contractor, elected officials and appointed committee members examine the site.

As energy prices are soaring around the globe, the Town of Sandwich, NH, took a step today to minimize costs for its municipal buildings. A few weeks ago a request for proposals (RFP) was sent out to solar installation companies. They were asked to develop formal bids for putting a solar array next to the town’s leach field adjacent to the fairgrounds on Squam Lake Road.

This morning was set aside for solar contractors to walk the property. Several companies expressed some interest in the RFP. Today one very reputable company showed up. Two selectboard members were there, a rec department representative, a representative from the fairgrounds, a couple of interested citizens and the town’s five energy committee members, who took the initiative to make this all happen.

Selectman Todd Horn takes notes, preparing for future questions and the March 2023 Town Meeting.

After examining the project, selectman Todd Horn said this is the “best, best, best win, win, win” for everyone involved. Of course, this is just one step, a formal bid has to be made by at least one solar installer, it has to be vetted by the selectboard and then finally everything has to be approved at the March Town Meeting. If all that happens, the array likely would go live by next fall.

Here is why Todd called it a win, win, win. Solar panel prices have dropped so much while electricity rates have skyrocketed. For example, at the town hall alone the monthly bill is exceeding $500 a month. This array offset the costs for that building, the police station, the rec center and the library, plus the costs of all the expensive street lights.

Here is another reason it seems like a great idea: 12 years ago an ad hoc energy committee for the town pushed to get solar panels installed on the fire station and town shed. As the rest of the town municipal buildings’ costs have skyrocketed, theirs have remained, for the supply side of their electric bill, near zero. They are only paying the electric company’s pole, transmission and maintenance fees.

Early projections are that the moment the new array begins producing electricity the town will begin to save money. It also makes the town less dependent on foreign energy suppliers and on big power generating companies far away. Plus it is only the beginning of what is possible.

Before moving here I lived in Marietta, Georgia, which way back in the 1920s decided to have its own power and water company. Today it produces so much income that the town property taxes are miniscule. We might be at a similar point today. For now, we are thinking small, but why not think bigger. It is possible.

Of course, if this were just Sandwich it would be a drop in the big global energy supply bucket. However, Sandwich is not alone. Towns across the state are doing similar and bigger projects. Our state government has been slow footing it, costing us all dearly but with a more enlightened political attitude big things could happen.

Our Sandwich story could well result into even more savings for all of us local taxpayers. Adam Heard, from right here in Sandwich, and Theresa Swanick are running for Carroll County commissioners as a two person team. After hearing our Sandwich story, they took out their calculators to see what could be done on the county level.

The electric bills for the county nursing home, jail and county offices have been close to $400,000 annually and will certainly exceed $500,000 in the near future. Swanick and Heard looked at the Sandwich model and applied it to Carroll County and discovered they could start saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in the immediate future and maybe millions spread over the long term. Lower taxes, cleaner energy, less reliance on foreign and far away domestic fuel sources. Wow, that is the best, best, best, win, win, win we all can love.

Leonard Witt is a member of the Town of Sandwich Energy Committee and a founding member of the Sandwich Climate Action Coalition. These opinions here are his alone – and so are the photos. 

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An Important New Book on Arresting Climate Change

An engaging, accessible citizen’s guide to the seven urgent changes that will really make a difference for our climateand how we can hold our governments accountable for putting these plans into action.

Dozens of kids in Montgomery County, Maryland, agitated until their school board committed to electric school buses. Mothers in Colorado turned up in front of an obscure state panel to fight for clean air. If you think the only thing you can do to combat climate change is to install a smart thermostat or cook plant-based burgers, you’re thinking too small.

That’s where The Big Fix comes in, offering everyday citizens a guide to the seven essential changes our communities must enact to bring our greenhouse gas emissions down to zeroand sharing stories of people who are making those changes reality.

Energy policy advisor Hal Harvey and longtime New York Times reporter Justin Gillis hone in on the seven areas where ambitious but eminently practical changes will have the greatest effect: electricity production, transportation, buildings, industry, urbanization, use of land, and investment in promising new green technologies. In a lively, jargon-free style, the pair illuminate how our political economy really works, revealing who decides everything from what kind of power plants to build to how efficient cars must be before they’re allowed on the road to how much insulation a new house requires—and how we can insert ourselves into all these decisions to ensure that the most climate-conscious choices are being made.

At once pragmatic and inspiring, The Big Fix is an indispensable action plan for citizens looking to drive our country’s greenhouse gas emissions down to zeroand save our climate.

“Full of illustrative stories and compelling evidence, The Big Fix outlines an ambitious yet feasible guide for addressing the climate crisis. Business leaders, activists, and policymakers at all levels will find inspiration from the pragmatic approaches outlined in this book.”
—Al Gore, chairman of The Climate Reality Project, chairman of Generation Investment Management, and former vice president of the United States 

“Smart, honest, and down-to-earth, The Big Fix addresses the crucial issue of our time: how citizens can compel action on climate change.”
—Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction and Under a White Sky

“Nobody grasps climate policy—and what can actually work—better than Hal Harvey. Nobody elucidates climate science better than Justin Gillis. Together, they offer a bold blueprint for saving a habitable Earth.”
—John Doerr, chairman of venture capital film Kleiner Perkins and author of Speed & Scale

“A truly comprehensive—and entirely comprehensible—guide to the things we can and must do to transform our use of energy. This book will be of great use to anyone who wants to participate in the greatest technological revolution in human history.”
—Bill McKibben, a founder of grassroots climate-campaign group 350.org and author of The Flag, the Cross, and the Station Wagon

“[Harvey and] Gillis make fighting climate change feel a bit less intimidating in this down-to-earth look at ways the average citizen can make a difference… a useful guide for budding activists.”
Publishers Weekly

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The Way to Slow Climate Change is as Close as Your City Hall or School Board

The Way to Slow Climate Change Is as Close as Your City Hall or School Board

New York Times, Opinion, Aug. 26, 2022

By Justin Gillis and Hal Harvey

Mr. Gillis and Mr. Harvey are the authors of the forthcoming book “The Big Fix: 7 Practical Steps to Save Our Planet.”

Three months after taking office as America’s 46th president, Joe Biden made a solemn pledge to the world: He declared that the United States, which is more responsible for the climate crisis than any other nation, would cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 from their 2005 peak.

The big climate law that Congress just enacted will go a long way toward meeting Mr. Biden’s goal. Coupled with other policies and with trends in the marketplace, it is expected to cut emissions by something like 40 percent.

But the law — even assuming it survives Republican attacks and defunding attempts over the coming years — does not fully redeem Mr. Biden’s pledge. How can America get the rest of the way toward meeting his 50 percent goal?

The answer is in all of our hands. Many of us are already trying to help as best we can, perhaps by nudging the thermostat a degree or two, by driving or flying less or by eating differently. These actions are useful, but they are not enough. The public must make the transition from green consumers to green citizens and devote greater political energy to pushing America forward in its transition to a clean economy.

How? The answers may be as close as your city hall or county commission. Your local school board — yes, the school board — has some critical decisions to make in the next few years. Opportunities to make a difference abound in your state Capitol.

The reason the public needs to speak up is simple. What Congress just did was, in a nutshell, to change the economics of clean energy and clean cars, using the tax code to make them more affordable. But it did not remove many of the other barriers to the adoption of these technologies, and a lot of those hurdles are under the control of state and local governments.

Consider this: Every school day, millions of Americans put their children on dirty diesel buses. Not only are the emissions from those buses helping to wreck the planet on which the children will have to live, but the fumes are blowing into their faces, too, contributing to America’s growing problem with childhood asthma.

It is now possible to replace those diesel buses with clean, electric buses. Has your school board made a plan to do so? Why isn’t every parent in America marching down to school district headquarters to demand it? Electric buses are more expensive right now, but the operating costs are so much lower that the gap can be bridged with creative financing. A school board that is not thinking hard about this and making plans for the transition is simply not doing its job.

Here is another example. The power grid in your state is under the control of a political body known as a public utilities commission or public service commission. It has the legal authority to tell electric companies what power plants they are allowed to build and what rates they can charge. By law, these boards are supposed to listen to citizens and make decisions in the public interest, but the public rarely weighs in.

We once needed special state laws to push utilities toward renewable energy, but Congress just changed the ground rules. With wind and solar farms becoming far more affordable, every utility in America now needs to re-examine its spreadsheet on how it will acquire power in the future. The public utility commissions supervise this process, and they are supposed to ensure that the utilities build the most affordable systems they reasonably can.

But too many utilities, heavily invested in dirty energy, still see clean energy as a threat. They are going to drag their feet, and they will ply their influence with state government to try to get away with it. Citizens need to get in the faces of these commission members with a simple demand: Do your jobs. Make the utilities study all options and go for clean power wherever possible.

One more example: The conversion to electric cars has begun, but as everyone knows, we still don’t have enough places to charge them, especially for people on long trips. State governments can play a major role in alleviating this bottleneck. Under Gov. Jared Polis in Colorado, the state is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to build charging stations, with poor neighborhoods included. Other states can do the same, and citizens need to speak up to demand it.

If you live in a sizable city or county, your local government is probably slowing down the automotive transition, too. These governments buy fleets of vehicles for their workers, and this year most of them will once again order gasoline-powered cars. Why? Because that’s what they’re used to doing. Citizens need to confront the people making these decisions and jolt them from their lethargy.

The two of us have been working on the climate problem for decades. We have never been as hopeful as we are today that America will finally shake off its intransigence and seize the future. We should all be grateful to the Congress that just enacted this new law, to President Biden for leading on the issue and especially to the young people who are so urgently demanding change. They have a moral right to inherit a livable world.

But no law is self-executing. The forces resisting change are still powerful. They are at work across the nation, fomenting lies and confusion wherever clean energy is discussed. We need a citizenry so engaged on this issue that it stands up to counter the disinformation — not just in Washington, but in every city hall, every school board, every state house and every utility commission.

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The Way to Slow Climate Change is as Close as Your City Hall or SchoolBoard

The Way to Slow Climate Change Is as Close as Your City Hall or School Board
New York Times, Opinion, Aug. 26, 2022
By Justin Gillis and Hal Harvey
Mr. Gillis and Mr. Harvey are the authors of the forthcoming book “The Big Fix: 7 Practical Steps to Save Our Planet.”
Three months after taking office as America’s 46th president, Joe Biden made a solemn pledge to the world: He declared that the United States, which is more responsible for the climate crisis than any other nation, would cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 from their 2005 peak.
The big climate law that Congress just enacted will go a long way toward meeting Mr. Biden’s goal. Coupled with other policies and with trends in the marketplace, it is expected to cut emissions by something like 40 percent.
But the law — even assuming it survives Republican attacks and defunding attempts over the coming years — does not fully redeem Mr. Biden’s pledge. How can America get the rest of the way toward meeting his 50 percent goal?
The answer is in all of our hands. Many of us are already trying to help as best we can, perhaps by nudging the thermostat a degree or two, by driving or flying less or by eating differently. These actions are useful, but they are not enough. The public must make the transition from green consumers to green citizens and devote greater political energy to pushing America forward in its transition to a clean economy.
How? The answers may be as close as your city hall or county commission. Your local school board — yes, the school board — has some critical decisions to make in the next few years. Opportunities to make a difference abound in your state Capitol.
The reason the public needs to speak up is simple. What Congress just did was, in a nutshell, to change the economics of clean energy and clean cars, using the tax code to make them more affordable. But it did not remove many of the other barriers to the adoption of these technologies, and a lot of those hurdles are under the control of state and local governments.
Consider this: Every school day, millions of Americans put their children on dirty diesel buses. Not only are the emissions from those buses helping to wreck the planet on which the children will have to live, but the fumes are blowing into their faces, too, contributing to America’s growing problem with childhood asthma.
It is now possible to replace those diesel buses with clean, electric buses. Has your school board made a plan to do so? Why isn’t every parent in America marching down to school district headquarters to demand it? Electric buses are more expensive right now, but the operating costs are so much lower that the gap can be bridged with creative financing. A school board that is not thinking hard about this and making plans for the transition is simply not doing its job.
Here is another example. The power grid in your state is under the control of a political body known as a public utilities commission or public service commission. It has the legal authority to tell electric companies what power plants they are allowed to build and what rates they can charge. By law, these boards are supposed to listen to citizens and make decisions in the public interest, but the public rarely weighs in.
We once needed special state laws to push utilities toward renewable energy, but Congress just changed the ground rules. With wind and solar farms becoming far more affordable, every utility in America now needs to re-examine its spreadsheet on how it will acquire power in the future. The public utility commissions supervise this process, and they are supposed to ensure that the utilities build the most affordable systems they reasonably can.
But too many utilities, heavily invested in dirty energy, still see clean energy as a threat. They are going to drag their feet, and they will ply their influence with state government to try to get away with it. Citizens need to get in the faces of these commission members with a simple demand: Do your jobs. Make the utilities study all options and go for clean power wherever possible.
One more example: The conversion to electric cars has begun, but as everyone knows, we still don’t have enough places to charge them, especially for people on long trips. State governments can play a major role in alleviating this bottleneck. Under Gov. Jared Polis in Colorado, the state is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to build charging stations, with poor neighborhoods included. Other states can do the same, and citizens need to speak up to demand it.
If you live in a sizable city or county, your local government is probably slowing down the automotive transition, too. These governments buy fleets of vehicles for their workers, and this year most of them will once again order gasoline-powered cars. Why? Because that’s what they’re used to doing. Citizens need to confront the people making these decisions and jolt them from their lethargy.
The two of us have been working on the climate problem for decades. We have never been as hopeful as we are today that America will finally shake off its intransigence and seize the future. We should all be grateful to the Congress that just enacted this new law, to President Biden for leading on the issue and especially to the young people who are so urgently demanding change. They have a moral right to inherit a livable world.
But no law is self-executing. The forces resisting change are still powerful. They are at work across the nation, fomenting lies and confusion wherever clean energy is discussed. We need a citizenry so engaged on this issue that it stands up to counter the disinformation — not just in Washington, but in every city hall, every school board, every state house and every utility commission.
Posted in Climate News | Comments Off on The Way to Slow Climate Change is as Close as Your City Hall or SchoolBoard

Mark Longley Receives Green Mountain Conservation Award

Mark Longley, a member of the Sandwich Climate Action Coalition steering committee, was recently awarded the 2022 High Watch Award for Volunteer Service by the Green Mountain Conservation Group.  

The award is presented annually to “a community member who has gone above and beyond to make a difference to the conservation of shared natural resources in the Ossipee Watershed.” GMCG honored Mark for his commitment to groundwater monitoring and protection and his dedicated service on several GMCG committees and our Board of Directors.

Green Mountain Conservation Group is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable organization established in 1997. The mission of GMCG is to promote an awareness of and appreciation for clean water and the wise use of shared natural resources across the Ossipee Watershed and advocate strategies to protect them. The towns of Eaton, Effingham, Freedom, Madison, Ossipee, Sandwich, and Tamworth comprise the Ossipee Watershed. This watershed includes one of the largest and deepest stratified drift aquifers in New Hampshire. GMCG also serves the towns of Maine’s Sacopee Valley.

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Historic Day Nationally & in Sandwich

Mark and Peggy Longley, Wharton Sinkler and Katherine Thorndike. Thanks for organizing this historic Sandwich event.

On Sunday, Aug 7, 2022, the US Senate finally passed historic climate action legislation that will likely become law very soon. It will tackle a problem acknowledged as needing fixing by our government for over 50 years.* It was fitting that at the very same time the bill passed, the Sandwich Electric Vehicle, Tool, & Solar Day was being held at our town hall parking lot, providing demos contributed by local and nearby residents showing the power and economic and other benefits of electric cars, pickup trucks, bicycles, chain saws, mowers, weed wackers, snow blowers and more. We are witnessing a very large step on a longer journey that needs to be taken to save the planet, while producing higher paying jobs and lowering the price of energy for heating, transportation and electricity. New Hampshire has been relatively flatfooted in taking advantage of all the new technology, now is the time to join the journey in earnest. 

Let’s give credit and thanks to Mark and Peggy Longley, Wharton Sinkler and Katherine Thorndike, all pictured above, for organizing this historic event for Sandwich on this historic day.  Thanks so much. 

*This from the New York Times about 50 years ago:

In 1969, President Richard Nixon’s adviser Daniel Patrick Moynihan wrote a memo describing a startling future. The increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere caused by burning oil, gas and coal, Mr. Moynihan wrote, would dangerously heat the planet, melt the glaciers and cause the seas to rise. “Goodbye New York,” Mr. Moynihan wrote. “Goodbye Washington, for that matter.”

Fifty-three years later, Congress is on the cusp of finally responding to what Mr. Moynihan termed “the carbon dioxide problem.”

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Electric Vehicle, Tool, & Solar Day Sun Aug 7th 1 – 5pm

                                       Sunday, August 7th, 1-5 PM

The Sandwich Town Hall parking lot on Maple Street in Center Sandwich,
   as a kick-off for Sandwichs Old Home Week.
You will be able to see first-hand, a range of electric vehicles and tools and talk with local owners about their experiences.  There will be  a Tesla M3, a Chevy Bolt, a Rivian pickup, a VW ID.4, Chevy Bolt,  a VW ID.4, a Volvo XC40 and Toyota Rav 4 Hybrid,  as well as e-bikes.  We will also have suites of yard/garden tools by EGo and Greenworks owned by local residents and tree-trimming equipment by Peter Hoag.

There will also be two local solar installers to answer questions regarding home installations as well as a program coordinator from Clean Energy NH who will be on hand to answer questions related to electric vehicle programs for supporting clean energy in New Hampshire. Representatives from NH Electric Coop will address utility incentives and rebates and excellent pamphlets on Driving an Electric Vehicle for Consumers from the US Dept of Energy.

Electric vehicles and outdoor tools are rapidly gaining popularity due to advantages including less maintenance with fewer working parts and low operating costs by avoiding high priced fossil fuels and their polluting emissions.  Pairing with residential solar, greatly lowers the cost of driving an EV and increases environmental benefits.

Cold beverages will be available and some exhibits will be under canopied tents for this summer event. A rain date will be Thursday, August 11th, 11:30- 4:00 pm at the Federated Church parking lot on Church St.

This Sandwich Electric Vehicle, Tool and Solar event is co-sponsored by the Sandwich Climate Action Coalition (www.sandwichclimate.com) and the Town of Sandwich Energy Committee.

Hope this event will help us grow ELECTRIC.  See you there!

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Invest Your Savings in Climate-Friendly Mutual Funds

In researching climate/environment-friendly investments, I’ve come across a few websites that you might find helpful, especially if you want to put your money where your values are:

Fossil Free Funds
Are your savings invested in fossil fuels?  You can easily check a mutual fund or
ETF on this website.  You can also search for climate-friendly funds using this
site’s screening function.  Here’s the link: https://fossilfreefunds.org/

Climate-Oriented Funds*
There is a multitude of climate-friendly SRI (socially responsible investing) mutual funds
and ETF’s being offered by investment brokers.  You may wish to consider the following
funds that have high SRI ratings and low expenses.  Ticker Symbols: PRBLX, SUSA,VFTAX/VFTNX, SDGA, & PORTX.

Asset Managers
If you would like an investment manager to build a balanced portfolio of stocks and bonds
based on your individual criteria, there are many commendable asset management services that specialize in ESG (Environmental/Social/Governance) investing.  Here’s one to consider:
Betterment* is an investment portfolio management service that provides socially
conscious investment opportunities. Based on your primary area of interest, you select
from one of the following three core portfolios:  1.) Climate Impact Portfolio 2.) Social Impact Portfolio or 3.) Broad Impact Portfolio.  The Climate Impact Portfolio seeks to integrate three distinct approaches to climate-conscious investing through:

  • Divestment (i.e. excluding companies holding fossil fuel reserves)
  • Low carbon exposure (i.e. overweighting carbon footprint leaders within each industry)
  • Impact (i.e. financing environmentally beneficial activities directly)

This SRI (Social Responsibility Investing) firm has 550,000 customers and $22 billion under management. For more information, check out this link (and watch the video on this page):
https://www.betterment.com/resources/exercising-power-as-investor-impact-climate-change?hsCtaTracking=869244f8-5dff-49e2-b765-146e1ab63995%7Cebb0d7e2-72e3-4876-95c3-0999f1688d67

Please note there are many other climate-focused portfolio management firms.

Municipal Solar Power Purchase Agreements

Barrington Power LLC offers subscriptions to their mid-sized solar projects throughout
the state.  The minimum investment is $25k.  Investors receive a 110% investment income  tax credit.  Contact MCL for more information.

And should you like to chit-chat about investing strategies for retirement, please don’t hesitate to contact Mark Longley anytime at (603)284-6294.

* DISCLAIMER:  SCAC does not attest to positive outcomes for any investment recommendations Made here.  Invest at your own risk.

 

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SCAC Welcomes New Members

Welcome aboard.  Please contact Mark should you have any questions or suggestions to improve our website.  Thanks!   marklongley@sbcglobal.net  (603)707-2046

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NHSaves Revived, Gets Funded by Legislature

NHSaves was on the edge of extinction when the NH Public Utility Commission majority, appointed by Gov. Chris Sununu, decided to start defunding the program. NH State Consumer Advocate Don Kreis said the PUC “administered a sledgehammer to more than two decades of energy efficiency programs as delivered under the NHSaves banner.”

Now NHSaves has been revived by the state legislature’s recently signed HB549. NH Save says the bill “restores funding and the framework for the NHSaves energy efficiency programs.”

However, Kreis in a Tweet said,  “Yes, enactment of HB549 was a victory. But not a total victory — not by any means,” the funding is less than what was originally requested and denied by the PUC back in November 2021.

NHSaves provides rebates on energy efficient appliances, provides free home energy audits and financial incentives of up to $6,000 to make homes, businesses and government more energy efficient and thus reduce energy usage and costs. To learn what is available visit NHSaves.

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