By MSH Board Member, Dori Drachman.
Originally Published in The Monadnock Shopper News, Green Monadnock column, April 2021.
The image above is a snap shot of down town Peterborough, New Hampshire.
On May 11, Peterborough residents will have the opportunity to vote for a climate resilient future. Article 11 on this year’s ballot would commit Peterborough to work toward providing 100% clean energy for all of its residents and businesses. Specifically, it calls for a transition to 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and 100% renewable heat and transportation by 2050, with a plan to reach these goals due by the end of 2022. If Peterborough voters pass Article 11, the town will join 5 other NH communities, including Keene and Hanover, that have made similar commitments. Across the country, over 25% of the population lives in a city or town that has committed to this goal.
Update: On May 11th, Peterborough residents voted 1,286 to 456 to pass Article 11. Peterborough has officially joined the list of over 170 communities across the nation working toward 100% renewable energy goals!
Why Pass Article 11?
While these are ambitious goals, they are urgently needed. Our changing climate is no longer a future danger. It is happening right now. New Hampshire’s climate is currently on track to resemble North Carolina’s. Anyone who has lived in NH for any length of time – even this transplant who’s only been here for 18 years – can see that the weather is getting hotter, winters are getting shorter, we’re experiencing more drought and more flooding. Since 1970, the average winter temperature in NH has risen almost 6°F.
New Hampshire communities will increasingly feel the economic impacts of these climatic changes. Warmer winters mean shorter ski seasons; earlier springs decrease the production of maple syrup. Flooding at the wrong time translates into lackluster fall foliage; drought means smaller crop yields. Granite Staters are also feeling the impacts on their health. Lyme Disease is on the rise because winters are too warm to kill off deer ticks. Hotter summer temperatures are increasing the incidence of heat stroke in vulnerable populations.
New Hampshire wildlife and forests are threatened by climate change as well. Moose populations have plummeted 90% due to tick infestations and the White Mountain’s charismatic Gray Jay is at risk because food that they cache spoils in the warmer winter temperatures. Our iconic sugar maples and white birch trees will soon drop out of our forests because they need colder weather to thrive.
Yet, as dire as these projections are, there is still time to avoid the most severe outcomes of climate change. Scientists agree that we need to keep global warming below 1.5°C to prevent worst case scenarios. In order to stay under that threshold, we need to cut our carbon emissions in half by 2030 and continue to decrease them until they are net zero by 2050. In modeling future outcomes, the biggest variable is human behavior.
So what does this mean? It means that our actions matter now more than ever. It means that we have to act quickly and boldly. And it means that we have to act collectively. Individual action is not sufficient to address this crisis. Only community-wide action will be able to meet the scale of the challenge. This is why Article 11 is so important. It moves the discussion and the solutions away from individual decisions and into the public realm. While it specifically doesn’t mandate that residents do or buy anything, it commits the Town to finding solutions that are effective and equitable for everyone in Peterborough.
Is This Achievable?
We are voting on this issue at a time when we have many cost effective technologies and tools to transition away from fossil fuels and replace them with renewables . The price of both solar and wind energy have seen steep declines in the last decade and will continue to become more efficient and affordable in the coming years. Offshore wind is a huge untapped resource that can be scaled to rival natural gas and oil. Electric vehicles (EVs) are poised to see a rapid expansion as major automakers, like GM and VolksWagon, phase out internal combustion engines and the price of batteries falls.
Perhaps the most impactful policy for transitioning to 100% renewables is NH’s new Community Power law. Community Power allows municipalities to source electricity for all of their residents and small businesses. This bulk purchasing program gives them leverage to negotiate better rates and to buy power that reflects the community’s priorities, including renewables. With Community Power, residents don’t need to buy expensive solar panels or even own their home to get the benefits of clean electricity.
Whether we make it all the way to 100% by the target dates will partly depend on evolving technologies and policies at the state and national levels. But it will also depend on intention and planning at the local level. Voting for Article 11 is Peterborough’s first step on the intentional pathway to 100% renewable energy.
Learn more about the campaign to transition Peterborough to 100% renewable energy at www.peterboroughenergyaction.org.
Dori Drachman is co-chair of the Monadnock Sustainability Hub’s Board of Directors. She is also leading Peterborough Energy Action’s effort to pass Article 11. Dori spent most of her career as an educator. She founded a school that organizes its curriculum around environmental education and was a classroom teacher for more than a decade. After earning her masters degree in environmental education from Antioch University New England, she worked as a teacher/naturalist for the Harris Center for Conservation Education. After years of taking kids into the woods with the goal of inspiring them to care for our planet, Dori decided that we actually couldn’t wait that long. So she helped re-start the Peterborough Energy Committee.