John Tabor is a Portsmouth City Councilor and chairman of Portsmouth Community Power.
Earlier this year, REDC sat down with Portsmouth City Councilor John Taber, chairman of Portsmouth’s Energy Advisory Committee, to discuss the impacts of the rising cost of energy on today’s economy.
REDC: What is the mission of Portsmouth Community Power?
John: The mission of Portsmouth Community Power is to aggregate the electrical demand of our city residents and use that to buy lower cost energy, with a governance model that's locally accountable.
REDC: And what are you most excited about regarding this initiative?
John: We're going to be able to save our residents money, and we're going to simplify buying electricity. The city will be the energy buyer through our partners at the Community Power Coalition of New Hampshire [which will simplify the process for residents]. We have the buying scale to get the best rates, and we're going to create the most green options for everybody.
REDC: Have you heard from many residents who are interested in participating?
John: We've been doing a lot of outreach. We had an event with more than 80 people, and we did a survey that came back from more than 600 residents. [Feedback has been] very positive. The opportunity to save money is valuable, and we found that more than half of our residents would like to buy more renewable electricity than they are now able to with Eversource.
REDC: Are there lessons that you've learned in the last year as you've been working on this that you could share with communities that aren't a member of the Coalition, but are thinking about it?
John: I think the Coalition has done a wonderful job. With 30 towns and cities, it's now the second biggest utility buyer of electric supply in the state, and that gives it wonderful buying power. And unlike the utilities that can only go into the energy markets twice a year, the coalition can build a portfolio of short-term and long-term contracts to get the best price and stability. Each of our communities has a say through the municipal and town and city representatives on the board of the coalition. So, the governance model is open, transparent, and there's local control, which we don't get with utilities.
REDC: Are there other states that have had coalitions for long period, with a track record, that New Hampshire is looking to learn from?
John: Everywhere that there has been community power legislation, the rates have gone down. In California, Ohio, and Massachusetts, in particular, we've seen a coalition of communities come together. Those [coalitions] drive rates and a lot of innovation in terms of buying off-peak, using batteries, or creating funding for solar, wind, and hydro.
REDC: Do you think the Coalition's work will be a catalyst for legislation?
John: Yes. I think we're going to see that happen in a matter of three or four years because deregulation happened in the nineties and not that much changed. 80% of people in New Hampshire still buy their electricity from Eversource, and we have pretty strict net metering limits. We have obstacles to many things. So, I think when you get all of these towns and cities working together to transform our energy markets, we will see the legislation flow from that, and it'll be good legislation. I hope it will advance us at the rate that our peers in Maine and Massachusetts are advancing in terms of renewables.
REDC: Is there anything else you'd like to share about Portsmouth specifically?
John: We're hoping to go live in June  and start saving our residents $25 a month or more versus [what they pay to] Eversource and respond to that demand to buy more renewable energy.
REDC's Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS)
This interview took place in March 2023 for the purpose of documenting first-hand perspectives on issues that present the largest obstacles to continued economic growth in our region. REDC's 2023 CEDS Update will be available for free electronically on our CEDS page in late June, 2023.
Part of this interview will be available to watch in a video on REDC's YouTube channel in late June, 2023.