The Dunbarton Energy Committee originated in 2007 when George Holt stood up in a Town Meeting and asked about inserting a Carbon Resolution into the Town Warrant. The Committee accomplished that goal and was dormant until John Stevens retired and presented himself to Town Hall as a new volunteer.The Dunbarton Energy Committee consists of several active community members. Wayne Bracy, Co-Chair Steven Dodd, Jason Dubrow, Kris Hanson, Holt, Lee Richmond, Ron Slocum, Co-Chair Stevens, and Dan VanKalken. It is Stevens and Richmond who sit down to discuss the new web site just launched, and the direction this now-busy committee is pursuing.
Activating the committee meant developing a plan that would encourage the community to get behind them. It was decided that the group would focus on municipal buildings, in the belief that people will notice what the town does. “If the town takes this group seriously, then they must be a trusted source,” explained Stevens. “We wanted to accomplish some things that would be immediately visible and we were also thinking about how to most wisely spend money to save money.”
To make any changes to municipal buildings, first the Committee needed to have an energy audit scheduled. Richmond points out that, “The energy audits were necessary to apply for grants that would pay to fix whatever came up in the audit.” An energy audit is an inspection and analysis of energy use in a structure, and how to regulate and conserve that energy to save money. “It gives you much more solid information on what you need to do. You really need that credible information,” says Stevens.
Energy audits were planned for the elementary school and the two town buildings. The next step would be to get the audits into the town budget. This was a careful balancing act by the committee, who felt sure that they would receive grants to cover the audit costs. However, process dictated that first the town would agree to be the financial conduit, then the grant committees would accept an invoice from the town and reimburse. To achieve this, petitions had to be signed to get the audits on the ballot in 2009, and it was going to be tricky. “The grants were to be announced the day after our voting. If we got the grants, then the money would all roll back to the town at the end of the year,” explained Stevens. The committee members and their volunteers spent many freezing weekends at the Dunbarton Transfer Station introducing themselves and their petition, and found that easily 9 out of 10 residents were happy to sign.
Once School Building Energy Audit Warrant and Town Building Energy Audit Warrant passed the vote, the grants came out and sure enough, Dunbarton’s well-written application was chosen for funds. Dunbarton Elementary School, Dunbarton Town Hall, Library, Police and Fire stations would all benefit from a professional Energy Audit. Stevens is understandably proud, “We do not have to lay out any money. The auditor invoices Dunbarton and we pass it through to the grant. No town money is active,” assures Richmond.
Currently, the granting organizations are behind their schedules. Richmond explains that there’s a correlation between inside and outside temperatures, and that the process will not begin until next fall. The Governors Office on Energy & Planning Grants Administrator allocates the money. It’s taking them longer than we would have expected to get through the process,” says Stevens. Grants are vital to the entire project, because it’s anticipated that other grants will cover the costs of repairs turned up by the audit themselves. “There are grants for the cost of repairs. The Federal Level grants are drying up, but the committee is searching for new grant opportunities. Stevens, in particular, has become the research guru for the Committee, and lists a number of funding sources he’s uncovered. “NH Public Utilities Commission might be an option,” he says.
The next big step for the Committee will be to publicize the new web site that just launched this spring, Dunbarton Energy Committee, www.dunbartonenergy.org. New England Grassroots Environment Fund granted the site that Richmond, a professional web designer, created for the community project. A strong and informative site that hosts a wealth of information, the site is accessible to both Dunbarton residents and other’s who are interested in cutting their home or automobile energy rates, accessing local programs, or learning more about energy technology. There is also a financial section, with suggestions for both home owners and business owners. Well designed, accessible and containing both a glossary and calendar, the Dunbarton Energy Committee web site will be a big asset to the town. “There are a lot of people out there with ideas,” says Stevens. The web site will help “find those people and figure out what to do with the ideas.” While designing the site, Richmond was sensitive to presenting factual information, because, he says, “Global warming and carbon are controversial subjects. You can get a good supportive argument going if you have enough facts.”
Both men agree that simple economics will drive a more green lifestyle. “If cars get better gas mileage, people can take the trips they dream about. Better heating costs make you more comfortable in your home. It’s just solid financial sense,” smiles Stevens. Solid, Yankee good sense.
The new web site makes several suggestions on how the community can reduce their own energy costs, such as a free energy audit from PSNH. The Dunbarton Energy Committee is now working with several auditors who may be willing to bundle several local audits at a reduced price. The Committee also found a grant to fund new solar hot water panels in the Dunbarton Elementary School, and they will be installed on the roof this summer. Demonstrating an educational investment as well as a financial one, the panels will be the center of several academic activities next school year, including a computer monitor that will track the panel performance.
The Dunbarton Energy Committee has long surpassed that original warrant brought by George Holt three years ago. In that time they’ve become a vital and necessary part of the Dunbarton community and are taking the community into a greener and less expensive future.