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Energy Commission lays out roadmap for improving efficiency

BEDFORD — The Energy Commission has established a set of priorities designed to improve energy efficiency, conservation, sustainability, reliability and affordability in the town.

“What we’re looking to do is really to bring Bedford into the next level in terms of how do we treat our energy consumption and everything around it as a town, but also as a community,” Conservation Chairman Robert Grogan said on Friday.

The commission on Thursday laid out some key goals it wishes to accomplish. They include: recycling, quantifying the town facilities’ progress on energy consumption, marketing and communication efforts, and sustainable energy creation and promotion.

Grogan said that he and several commissioners were driven to create these goals after being impressed by the work of other energy commissions in the state.

The town’s existing recycling program, Grogan said, is “one that we feel that we can improve.

“Certainly, the folks that run the program within Public Works are working hard on it and doing everything they can to facilitate recycling in the community, but we think there’s more that we could do,” he said. “We look at the statistics of where we are as a town, as a single-stream recycler, versus peer towns, and we don’t feel that we are where we need to be.”

Grogan said the commission aims to educate residents about the tax impact of improved recycling and potential benefit for the community. He said that the commission would audit town facilities’ recycling practices to ensure the town is doing its part.

“We’re looking at getting some solar-powered, digital signage for the transfer station to really highlight … where we are, what we could do better,” he said.

The project will be a collaborative effort with the Hillsborough County Area Renewable Energy Initiative, and will be built with donated solar cells and recycled computer monitors from the landfill. The digital signs will display recycling statistics and benefits to taxpayers, and will not cost the town anything, Grogan said.

He also said the commission would work with the public schools to foster better education about recycling. The commission had a recycling jingle competition for students last year.

As for quantifying progress on energy usage in town, the commission has identified an app developed by the Environmental Protection Agency called Portfolio Manager, which allows municipalities to track energy usage and to compare it with other communities.

“We’ve seen it work really well for other communities in New Hampshire where, over the course of a couple years, they got tremendous data on which of their facilities were performing well, which ones were right for improvement (and) which types of facilities were doing well,” Grogan said, adding that the town clerk’s office has started entering data for Bedford into Portfolio Manager.

Getting its message out

The commission wants to improve its social media presence, Grogan said, to maximize engagement with the community.

“There really is an active conversation going on (about) efficiency and energy intelligence in the town,” he said. “It’s not all about saving energy; it can also be about producing energy, about saving money for the taxpayers. And so we really want to get a very well-branded message out to the community.”

Grogan said that the commission has a page on the town website and a Facebook page, but no other digital presence. He said the commission discussed the need to improve its use of media — online, on public access television and print — to get the message out regarding what the town is doing to improve its energy usage, and what residents can do to help.

Grogan called the commission’s goal to create and promote sustainable energy “particularly exciting,” saying a request for proposals has been issued to take unused land in town and install solar panels, which would be used to drive down electricity costs for the town.

“The goal there is to evaluate solutions, and there’s many different ways that other towns that we are studying are going at it,” Grogran said. “The end goal is to save the taxpayers money.”

Grogan said that the city of Lowell, Mass., has installed a large number of solar cells at its landfill and is a good example of what Bedford would like to accomplish. He also said the commissioners met with the chairman of the Hollis Energy Commission and were impressed by what that group had done in their community

“What we want to do is make sure we get the best (model) for our town,” he said.

Grogan also said Bedford would work with Solarize New Hampshire, a new initiative that aims to increase the number of residential solar panels.

“It’s an effort to take these regional planning commissions, who drive it, and partner with towns to get a significantly faster deployment of residential solar,” he said. “It provides (people) some peace of mind that this has all been very well vetted, and they’re just getting a better price.”

Grogan said residents can expect to see increased media efforts from the commission, including digital signage at the transfer station, within this quarter.

“It’s important to us to utilize the media well,” he said. “We think that’s one of our best tools, because it doesn’t really require any funding.”

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