Town of Mason leads the charge with energy coalition

Good things come in powerful packages. Take Mason, New Hampshire – a town of roughly 1350 residents, that has exactly two commercial establishments and no zip code of its own.

Yet its citizens, when faced with a problem, rally to support their decidedly tiny conurbation with startling results.

“The people of Mason have traditionally put their time and talents into doing projects that towns with larger resources in people and tax dollars struggle with,” said Kathleen Chapman, a patent attorney, an energy reduction proponent, and a strong member in the Mason community. “We have a long history of being active in local government. And so, the residents reap the rewards of their labors.”

Chapman talked about the town’s fight against the now defeated pipeline project, saying, “Mason residents took a lead role in fighting the NED pipeline. And in a natural follow-on, Mason folks began wondering about the town’s energy consumption.”

One Masonite, Garth Fletcher, bought an infra-red camera and did a heat study of his own.

“Wow,” she remarked. “From that NED struggle, we began meeting- the community I mean. And from data from the heat study, the Mason Energy Commission was born.”

The Mason Energy Commission established under RSA 38-D, will research municipal energy use and cost, and make that information available to the town on at least an annual basis to encourage cost-savings for everyone in the community. MEC will, “study, report, and make recommendations to local boards and committees pertaining to municipal energy plans and sustainable practices such as energy conservation, energy efficiency, and energy supply choices,” said Chapman.

“We thought that community education and service in terms of helping people understand what they can do to reduce their energies costs, would be a big community service that we could perform.”

The MEC formed about a year ago and meets monthly. The commission is also authorized to receive grants and appropropriations and to spend funds as authorized by RSA 38-D:5.

“Anybody is welcome to come,” said Chapman. “We meet at the Mann house in Mason.”

The MEC’s goal is to help the town’s residents reduce energy consumption, thereby meeting three goals of reducing overall fuel costs, increasing indoor comfort, and reducing dependence on the major source of energy use, fossil fuels.

“Reducing municipal fuel costs can both stabilize taxes against the ever-rising costs of energy use,” explained Chapman, “and free up money that would be allocated for energy costs to other town needs such as road equipment, broadband, fire/EMS needs.”

Chapman said the commission is looking at other towns such as Temple and Rindge, who have been active in energy use reduction and fossil fuel dependence reduction.

The MEC also finds partnership opportunities with organizations such as Clean Energy NH, NHSaves, the Monadnock Energy Hub, and Eversource’s energy efficiency group.

“These groups have provided resources and support to the MEC,” she said. “Representatives from these towns and groups have taken the time to visit the MEC and teach us what they’ve learned.”

Additionally, in just over a year, the MEC has for an energy efficiency study and a lighting study of the town’s resources.

“Both studies found significant cost savings – not to mention increased comfort levels inside the buildings if the suggestions are implemented,” said Chapman. “The implementations of the weatherization study recommendations and the lighting study recommendations are currently being evaluated by the town.”

Chapman said that each of the steps that the MEC takes towards the reduction of energy use requires some education, i.e. the MEC educates itself, and then it seeks to educate our neighbors and friends inside and outside of Mason.

For that purpose, among others, the commission has organized a “Button Up,” workshop, to address how to improve home energy efficiency. The workshop is conducted by a certified energy auditor and covers whole-house weatherization measures.

“The ‘Button-Up,’ is our first big project,” she said. “And we plan to begin working with students at the Mason school, to help them. We think the best thing we can do is educate early, so they’ll be aware of energy use and how to reduce it.”

(For more information about the workshop, please visit NHSaves.com/events or email Marina MacIntosh at mbmac8@gmail.com.)

“What we’ve done so far, is that we’ve met with everybody in the area, that we knew of, who has some form of information. Because we’re standing on the shoulders of several towns.”

There will also be a monthly Mason Community Supper (CS).

“The CS began with a group of people from the Mason Congregational Church and has expanded to include many people in the community,” said Chapman. “All are welcome, whether Mason residents or not, and the supper is free, although donations are accepted.”

“Ultimately, is everybody who attends the workshop, or the dinner, can walk away with just one thing they learned that night, they can change the way they use and reduce energy. That’s our goal.”