When it comes to unique happenings, the citizens of Keene, N.H., could mention their feat of breaking the world record for most jack-o’-lanterns on display, which happened several times during the state’s annual pumpkin festival from 1991 to 2014. The town could also point out that the movie “Jumanji,” starring Robin Williams, was shot in its very own Parish Mansion. But a more recent and substantially more important event was when it became the first in the state of New Hampshire to take the final step toward local implementation of a goal for renewable energy.
A statement by the town explains this further: “It is the goal of the City of Keene that all electricity consumed in the city will come from renewable energy sources by the year 2030 and that 100% of all thermal energy and energy used for transportation come from renewable energy sources by the year 2050. This goal will apply to the entire Keene community, not just municipal government operations.”
Clean energy is a topic the United States has talked about for decades in both the public and private sectors. From the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which mandated that U.S. gasoline contain greater amounts of renewable fuel, to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which called for 27.2 billion in funding toward investment into research of renewable energy, it has been one of the most important discussions and frustrating dilemmas of our modern age.
Though many have understood the importance of developing ways to power society without harming the Earth and ourselves, not all attempts at an agreement on legislation have been successful. But according to “Renewables on the Rise 2020,” a report by the Environment America Research and Policy Center and the Frontier Group, the past 11 years have seen the U.S. begin to rapidly rise in both its dedication to and application of moving toward renewable energy sources, on both the federal and state level.
New Hampshire’s 10-year data from that report was encouraging: the state had a 65-fold gain in solar energy production, a five-fold growth in wind energy production, and 3,927 electric vehicles were sold through June 2019.
Keene did its part to continue this upward swing by unanimously adopting the Keene Community Power Plan in May 2021. The plan’s details cover alternative choices for electricity, control of electricity bills and increased local renewable energy. Since studies have shown the transportation sector is the highest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, one part of its dedication to renewable energy is to create an environment in which it is easy to switch from gasoline cars to electric vehicles. Since electric vehicle purchases can only increase if there are charging stations, Keene is actively working toward forwarding the changes needed to help its vehicular landscape be one in which it isn’t a hassle to use an electric vehicle.
All change can experience a backlash. During the initial planning, council members explored many strategies to lessen this, including all property owners and local utility companies in the discussions. There were also several programs initiated. These were aimed at bringing electronic vehicles more prevalently into the community’s eyes as superior choices for sustainable transportation. This entailed community outreach, such as social media campaigns across several platforms and collaboration between various local groups.
Finding initial funding sources for such a complicated project is always a concern, but Keene committee members discussed several different directions to be explored. For individuals, rebates as incentives were significant. Also, recently, the federal tax credit for EV infrastructure was reinstated at 30%, which is a substantial incentive. Several car dealers within Keene expressed interest in having charging stations available for customers. One source of funds is potentially the Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Funds. Part of the settlement required Volkswagen to invest $2 billion into actions that support increased use of zero-emission vehicles technology.
The installation of charging stations is also being done in response to several automotive manufacturers announcing plans to be solely electric by 2025-2035. There were no charging stations available in Keene before 2021; however, preparation for a potential wave of electronic vehicles seems to be the right path forward. It supports aims in advancing Keene as an attractive place to reside. Several charging stations were installed in the summer of 2021, and the city is currently looking at ways and other locations to install more. All in all, Keene seems to be following the overall example of “Jumanji.” In the game of sustainable energy, it is the city’s turn, and it seems city leaders have thrown the dice. If Keene succeeds with its goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050, it will begin the process of winning the game.