Three renewable energy bills awaiting action by Gov. Chris Sununu are in conflict with the state’s revised 10-Year Energy Strategy, which the governor championed in April. A veto of these bills would be consistent with the state’s energy plan and with the governor’s goal of fighting increases in New Hampshire electricity rates. Letting the bills become law would undermine the plan and encourage legislators to ignore it going forward.
The 10-Year Energy Strategy, released by the Office of Strategic Initiatives in April, represents an important and long-overdue shift in state energy policy. Acknowledging the negative economic impact of the state’s high electricity costs, the strategy makes lowering those costs a top priority.
“Addressing energy costs is a critical goal for New Hampshire,” the strategy states. “Expensive energy – or pursuing policies that raise the cost of energy – directly and negatively impacts New Hampshire families and businesses and the quality of life in our state. As such, the priority of this Strategy is to organize goals around cost-effective energy policies.”
Senate Bills 365, 446 and 577 all conflict with the state’s goal of lowering energy prices. Each one would push electricity rates higher for the sole purpose of forcing ratepayers to subsidize a handful of renewable energy businesses.
Senate Bill 365 would require Eversource to pay above-market rates to the state’s six biomass power plants.
Senate Bill 446 would expand the state’s net metering program to include biomass power plants. The net metering law forces utilities to buy electricity from qualifying renewable generators at above-wholesale rates.
Senate Bill 577 would extend an agreement through which Eversource buys power from the Burgess Biopower plant in Berlin at above-market rates.
Each of these bills deliberately raises New Hampshire electricity rates in direct contradiction of what the state’s new energy strategy describes as the “critical goal” of reducing those rates.
The stated goal of these bills is to preserve several hundred jobs in the forest products industry. Yet by pushing electricity rates ever further upward, these bills jeopardize tens of thousands of jobs in other industries, particularly in manufacturing, which employs 70,000 people in the Granite State.
In an April statement announcing the new energy strategy, Gov. Sununu emphasized the importance of prioritizing low energy prices.
“New Hampshire has made great strides over the last year to reinvigorate our economy and to reaffirm our commitment to being open for business,” Sununu said. “Short term political calculations of the past must give way to long-term investments for the future. We are working hard to lower our electricity rates – some of the highest in the nation – and today’s energy plan will chart New Hampshire’s course forward.
“Whether it’s the family working hard to make ends meet or the business that has to put off hiring new employees, high electricity costs weigh down on everyone – especially the elderly and those on fixed incomes. It’s time for change. New Hampshire’s 10 Year State Energy Strategy will address our urgent needs. This plan sets the stage for New Hampshire to finally get out of the business of picking winners and losers in the energy market.”
The Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy agrees that New Hampshire’s economy is best served by an energy policy that ends the practice of “picking winners and losers in the energy market” and instead commits to lowering prices by removing state interventions that raise rates.
These three bills conflict with that goal and continue the outdated and discredited practice of rigging the energy markets to benefit politician-preferred groups at the expense of consumers.