Government energy plans too often focus on replacing consumers’ choices with those of government planners, regardless of the impact on consumers. New Hampshire’s 10 Year Energy Strategy goes in the other direction. It puts consumers first.
The new strategy is little changed from the 2018 version. Its top priorities are shrunk from 11 to 10, with “cost-effective energy policies” the primary goal, followed by securing “a reliable, and resilient energy system.”
The difference really is more of emphasis. The new version articulates a clearer free-market vision for state energy policy.
The strategy rejects government mandates and subsidies except in limited, temporary circumstances. Instead, it articulates a strong rationale for creating an open and competitive energy marketplace in which competition generates technological advances while driving down prices.
It’s an unapologetically pro-market, pro-consumer plan.
Noting the state’s extremely high energy costs, the strategy makes addressing those costs “a critical goal for New Hampshire.”
“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 primary goal of this Strategy is to pursue cost-effective energy policies which is even more important in this time of record energy prices and high inflation.”
The strategy rejects the idea that politicians should manipulate energy markets to benefit technologies they prefer.
“Policy makers should not enact any new mandates that place additional burdens on ratepayers or taxpayers,” it states.
The state and consumers would be made worse off if politicians tried to second-guess the market, it goes on to explain.
“While some states may attempt to drive innovation through mandates and subsidization, New Hampshire will never win a battle of subsidies,” the strategy asserts. “Instead, our state should enable creativity and entrepreneurial endeavors by refraining from picking winners and losers among energy technologies. New Hampshire can foster a sustainable and dynamic energy economy by ensuring a favorable regulatory environment for new technologies to flourish, not a regulatory and statutory environment based on favoritism.”
Consistent with that philosophy, the strategy removes an item from the previous plan’s top goals. Gone is the goal to:
“Maximize the economic lifespan of existing resources while integrating new entrants on a levelized basis.”
That old goal is inconsistent with the new plan’s vision that “a status quo that uses preferential policy to allow incumbents—of any technology type—to freeze out competition should be unacceptable.”
The strategy’s top ten priorities are:
1. Prioritize cost-effective energy policies.
2. Ensure a secure, reliable, and resilient energy system.
3. Adopt all-resource energy strategies and minimize government barriers to innovation.
4. Achieve cost-effective energy savings.
5. Achieve environmental protection that is cost-effective and enables economic growth.
6. Government intervention in energy markets should be limited, justifiable, and technology-neutral.
7. Support a robust, market-selection of cost-effective energy resources.
8. Generate in-state economic activity without reliance on permanent subsidization of energy.
9. Protect New Hampshire’s interests in regional energy matters.
10. Ensure that appropriate energy infrastructure is able to be sited while incorporating input and guidance from stakeholders.
The additional, more forceful emphasis on market competition is a welcome addition to this version of the state’s energy strategy. But as with the previous version, the question is how much influence it will have with legislators.
These policy frameworks can help to guide administrations, but legislators tend to do what they want. If constituents demand subsidies for the timber industry, the timber industry will probably get subsidies. Still, it’s encouraging to see the state make so strong a statement in favor of markets, competition, and consumer choice.