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Renewable energy for Concord is far from pretending

February 22. 2018 7:22PM

COMMUNITIES across New Hampshire are embracing a renewable energy future. From Berlin to Durham, local efforts to reap the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy sources will result in cities and towns taking ownership of their energy future and destinies. These local efforts are a testament to the foresight and the ingenuity of citizens across our state.

The city of Concord Energy and Environment Committee’s (CEEC) vision of a 100 percent renewable energy future by 2050 is worthy of strong community support, in stark contrast to the narrow minded position of the Union Leader as expressed in a recent editorial attacking the city of Concord for “pretending” to consider such an ambitious effort (“Clean Energy Dance,” Feb. 16, 2018.)

The Union Leader’s misguided criticisms lack imagination and discount the value of setting goals and then diligently working toward making those goals a reality though the pursuit of specific projects and actions — exactly the strategy recommended by CEEC and other energy committees across New Hampshire.

The editorial contends that a transition to renewable energy is enormously and prohibitively expensive, completely ignoring recent trends that demonstrate that renewable energy sources are reaching cost parity with oil and gas generation. Highly respected private sector firms such as Lazard, McKinsey, and Bloomberg report that onshore wind and large solar projects are already price competitive with natural gas, and that renewable energy sources will be less expensive than conventional energy sources within five to 10 years.

The global capitalization in support of renewable energy far outstrips investments in coal, oil, and gas. That advantage will only grow in the years to come, and it is where our energy future and economic security is to be found.

In addition to the positive economics of renewable energy, reducing the carbon emissions of fossil fuels will help Concord do its part in reducing the impacts of climate change on New Hampshire. Our own climate scientists at the University of New Hampshire have identified the impacts of climate change that we are living with right now, including milder and shorter winters, less predictable and rising temperatures that affect the maple sugaring industry, the severe decline in our moose population due to the climate change induced proliferation of winter ticks, and the decreasing populations of cold water fish stocks off our coast ... all to the net detriment of the New Hampshire economy and our quality of life.

The benefits of communities moving toward 100 percent renewable energy include enhanced economic development and job creation opportunities through the development of clean energy sources, a better ability to predict and control energy costs, and improvements in human health as a result of reductions in carbon pollution. The ambitious renewable energy goals set forth by the Concord community are far from a “do-nothing pledge” as stated by the Union Leader.

In fact, the 100 percent renewable energy presentation by CEEC to the Concord City Council was accompanied by a detailed 50-page case statement conceived by committee members that contain specific recommendations for the Concord community to take in support of reaching this important goal.

In one of the few instances in which the Union Leader editorial was accurate, it correctly states that the council chambers were filled during the presentation — filled in part with a large contingent of high school students motivated by great concern about the harm we are causing to our environment and hopeful about the capacity to change course and create positive outcomes for our society. As the state capitol of New Hampshire, Concord will continue to take a strong leadership role in building a sustainable and productive energy future.

Rob Werner is a Concord city councilor and state director of the League of Conservation Voters.

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