The Derry Town Council has authorized a trial run of the proposed Net Zero Task Force.
The Council voted unanimously to approve the creation of the advisory committee after a presentation by Councilor Joshua Bourdon at the Feb. 2 Council meeting.
Bourdon presented his original proposal at the Jan. 26 meeting. At that time he explained Net Zero as “The total amount of energy used is roughly equal to the amount of energy created.”
Bourdon explained, “We would measure our current efficiency, assessing the energy use of public and non-public buildings, how we can improve our energy consumption, reduce the cost of energy, and reduce our carbon footprint.”
He was asked to come back with more details, and presented them at the Feb. 2 meeting.
“We have come up with a boilerplate for membership, policies and procedures,” Bourdon said.
The committee would have 11 members, including a Town Council liaison, a Derry Cooperative School District liaison, a Pinkerton Academy liaison, a representative from the Energy/ Environmental Advisory Committee, a Public Works employee, a representative from the Greater Derry Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, a representative from the Conservation Commission, a delegate from the Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission, a representative from Parkland Medical Center, and two members of the public.
“These would represent all our key stakeholders,” Bourdon said of the committee makeup. “We want buy-in from everyone.”
In addition to making Derry a greener community and reducing the carbon footprint, Bourdon listed other advantages of the Task Force, including sharing of knowledge, improved communication, and new revenues from alternative energy and recycling, which would lead to savings and a lower tax rate.
“We have tried things in the past that haven’t worked and it ended up costing us millions,” Bourdon said. “This costs us zero.”
One of the most important components, according to Bourdon, is the “working together” piece. “This would end the finger-pointing, the divisiveness and the name-calling,” he said.
In discussion on the topic Councilor Richard Tripp asked, “Would this be a special committee or a standing committee?”
Chairman Tom Cardon, who helped develop the proposal, said it would be a special committee and report back to the Council in four months.
“It is an advisory committee,” Bourdon said. “If it’s not going anywhere by that time, we can dissolve it.”
But Councilor Mark Osborne said, “Four months goes by quickly. Is that enough time for this?”
“I thought four months would be good. It would get people moving,” Cardon said, adding that he used last year’s establishment of the Economic Development Committee as a measuring stick.
“I can live with four months, but I’d like to see a longer time frame,” Bourdon said.,
Within four months, he said, the group is tasked with finding the stakeholders, creating bylaws, finding a meeting time, and identifying projects.
Councilor Al Dimmock expressed doubt that the group could accomplish that much in four months, which is basically four meetings, he pointed out, adding, “You need a little time to get things going.”
Dimmock also objected to the one-year appointment term for committee members. He said all the members’ terms would be up at the same time, and he recommended staggering them.
“This is a special committee,” Cardon responded. “If it becomes a permanent standing committee, yes, we will stagger them.”
“This is holding your feet to the fire,” Dimmock told Bourdon. “I would like to see you have more time.”
Bourdon said he would like to see a six-month time frame, because many of the people interested are busy and serve on other committees.
“How would you measure success?” Osborne asked.
Bourdon responded, “What I consider success is finding our baseline, where we are now, and moving forward.”
“Nothing here is ‘gospel,’” Tripp observed. “I think we should approve this, and see what they can do.”
The formation of the committee was approved, with a six-month time frame to report back to the Council.
Other municipalities are forming Net Zero committees and initiatives, with Cambridge, Mass., one of the first in the nation to adopt a Net Zero policy in June 2015. Cambridge’s plan focuses on large buildings, requiring new buildings to conform to net-zero emissions standards through rigorous energy efficiency designs, on-site renewable energy generation and use of renewable energy sources or renewable energy credits for the daily operation of the building.