For years, legislators have been on a relentless quest to raise electricity rates for Granite Staters. Because unlike the rest of us, they are geniuses. 

None of us knows exactly what New Hampshire’s energy mix should be. None of us could say precisely how much of the state’s energy should come from solar or biomass. 

But they know.  

In the continental United States, only three states (Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island) have higher electricity rates than New Hampshire. There are lots of reasons why our rates are so high. One is that we don’t have enough pipelines to deliver natural gas to the state. Another is that we have multiple state mandates that raise rates by requiring utilities to pay higher prices for the type of power legislators prefer — instead of the type of power consumers prefer. 

Because they know. 

This week they issued their latest genius decree. Senate Bill 168 would amend the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) to require that at least 5.4 percent of New Hampshire’s electricity is generated from solar sources by 2025.

The Renewable Portfolio Standards, imposed in 2007, force utilities to buy certain percentages of power from renewable sources such as thermal, new solar, biomass and small-scale hydro. Utilities must buy 25.2 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2025, with that 25.2 percent broken down into specific classes.

The current standards require that 0.6 percent of power comes from new (opened after 2005) solar generation. Bumping that to 5.4 percent in six years, as SB 168 does, is a huge increase. An ignoramus might ask: why 5.4 percent?

Why not 5 percent? Or between 5-10 percent? Why exactly 5.4 percent? 

That’s amazing precision. 

How do legislators know that 5.4 percent is precisely the right percentage of solar for New Hampshire to have? 

They must be super geniuses. Like Wile E. Coyote. 

That has to be it. 

We respect our legislators too much to believe that this whole RPS scheme is like kids dressing up for Career Day at school. “We get to play electric company executive today! Yay!”

Because legislators mandate specific rates for specific classes of renewable energy instead of, say, encouraging utilities to reach an overall target (with no penalties), they must know everything there is to know about energy. 

They must have knowledge that we little people cannot understand with our little minds and parochial concerns, like what will we spend less on this year so we can afford to pay the electric bill? 

Such knowledge is a gift.   

As we noted in April, University of Chicago researchers have found that RPS laws raise energy prices by 17 percent within 12 years after passage. 

We shared that study with legislators. They ignored it. The University of Chicago researchers must be imbeciles too. 

Business executives and ratepayer advocates have explained to legislators over the years that mandates such as these raise New Hampshire’s cost of living, discouraging business investment and making it harder for families and employers to make ends meet. 

But legislators keep passing more mandates. Their vision is beyond that of mere retirees and employers, with their petty concerns about grocery bills and survival in a competitive market.

As electric rates continue to rise, we common folk should resist the urge to get angry. 

Just consider the higher rates a genius tax. They’re the price we pay for living under the benevolent guidance of brilliant elites who know best how to spend the money we earn.   

Renewable Portfolio Standards increase electricity costs more than was previously believed, a comprehensive study by the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute has found. Moreover, the study concluded that the costs outweigh the benefits of whatever carbon reduction RPS laws can be credited with producing. 

Measuring both direct and indirect costs, the EPI study concluded that “electricity prices increase substantially after RPS adoption.”

RPS mandates cause electricity rates to rise by 11 percent within seven years and by 17 percent within 12 years, the study concluded. And the largest burden of RPS laws falls on residential ratepayers.

“The estimated increases are largest in the residential sector, but there are economically significant price increases in the commercial and industrial sectors too.” 

Studies of RPS impacts have failed to capture the full cost because they tend to measure only the direct cost of new renewable generation, the authors of the EPI study wrote. Their review included a comprehensive examination of indirect impacts such as transmission and stranded costs.

“A particularly striking finding is that the indirect costs of RPS programs, which have not been possible to comprehensively measure to date, appear to account for the majority of RPS program costs,” the study found.

When all costs are included, the study found that RPS laws are an extremely expensive and inefficient way to reduce carbon emissions.

When the carbon reduction attributable to RPS laws is tallied, “the cost per metric ton of CO2 abated exceeds $130 in all specifications and can range up to $460, making it at least several times larger than conventional estimates of the social cost of carbon,” the study concluded. 

“This study joins a growing body of evidence that demonstrates that when climate policies favor particular technologies or target something other than the real enemy—carbon emissions—the result is less effective and more expensive than is necessary. In contrast, the global experiences from carbon markets and taxes make clear that much less expensive ways to reduce CO2 are available right now,” study co-author Michael Greenstone, director of the Energy Policy Institute and former chief economist for President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors, said in a statement.

In New Hampshire, Senate Bill 124 would raise the state’s RPS from 25% to 60% by 2040. The study suggests that this would produce significant electricity rate increases because rates have been shown to rise along with the percentage of renewable energy utilities are required to use.

“RPS program passage leads to substantial increases in electricity prices that mirror the program’s increasing stringency over time,” the study found.

Technological innovation has brought solar power to the brink of market competitiveness. It will never be as reliable as a gas or nuclear plant that can run 24/7, but as a supplement it doesn’t have to be. When its price is truly market competitive, individuals and businesses will rush to build their own facilities so they can lower their bills and make money selling power back to the grid. 

We appear to be on the verge of such a transformation, as the price of producing solar power has fallen dramatically in the last half century. By at least some measures, solar generation is already price competitive. And yet the Legislature appears set to pass two simultaneous subsidies that would raise New Hampshire’s already astronomically high electricity rates for the express purpose of creating huge new subsidies for the solar industry (and hydro too).

The first subsidy was passed by the Senate last week. The amended version of House Bill 365 would expand the state’s existing net metering subsidy. Under net metering, utilities are forced by law to pay above-market rates for electricity purchased from small-scale, consumer-owned renewable power generators (think rooftop solar). 

The Senate’s version of HB 365 would allow this net metering “tariff” (read: subsidy) to apply to generators who produce up to 5 megawatts of power. (The current limit is 1 MW.) A 5 MW generator is not a home solar array. That’s large enough to power thousands of homes. Here’s a newly opened 5 MW solar plant in Egypt.)

Supporters say the bill would encourage the creation of new solar facilities. But that isn’t necessary given recent advances in solar technology. That also doesn’t explain why the bill contains a provision to allow existing power plants to convert from wholesale generators to net-metered generators in what can only be a blatant consumer rip-off. 

Most New Hampshire hydropower plants already qualify for net metering under the current 1 MW cap. But some, notably four of the hydro plants Eversource sold to Hull Street Energy last year, generate between 1 and 5 MW. The amended version of HB 365 would allow those facilities to legally reclassify themselves as net-metered generators after they fulfill their existing wholesale contracts. 

Once these hydro plants are reclassified, utilities by law would have to pay them at the default energy rate rather than the wholesale rate. The default rate — about 9 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) — is roughly twice the wholesale rate — about 4 cents per kWh. Consumers would be forced by their own elected representatives to pay twice the wholesale price for hydropower generated by existing hydro plants. 

The New England Ratepayers Association estimates that the subsidies in this bill will cost consumers about $10 million a year. But legislators have still another plan to compound the subsidy. 

Senate Bill 124 increases the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards. The bill would mandate that 18.9 percent of New Hampshire’s power come from new solar generation by 2040. That’s up from 0.5 percent this year. 

The double whammy, then, would work like this: The state by law forces utilities to pay twice the wholesale rate for net-metered solar power, then compels utilities to buy 38 times more solar power. 

Just like that, legislators would create a huge transfer of wealth from Granite State residents and businesses to a politically favored industry. 

Legislators considering these bills should take note of a study published this week by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. It concludes that Renewable Portfolio Standards increase the cost of electricity far beyond the benefit of the carbon reductions they cause. The “cost per metric ton of CO2 abated exceeds $130 in all specifications and ranges up to $460, making it at least several times larger than conventional estimates of the social cost of carbon,” the study concluded.

With a retail electricity rate 60% higher than the national average, New Hampshire should be doing all it can to lower electricity rates. Instead, legislators continue pushing laws designed to raise rates even further.  

House Bill 365, scheduled for a Thursday vote in the state Senate, would require utility companies to pay above-market rates for solar power, thus forcing consumers to pay higher costs than necessary for electricity, the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy cautions in a statement released today.
Such anti-consumer subsidies for a specific industry are not necessary for New Hampshire to encourage the development of alternative energy production. Solar technologies are approaching cost parity with more traditional forms of energy production and are increasingly able to compete without subsidies.
For example, Connecticut announced in December that it had entered into contracts with nine solar energy providers (including two based in New Hampshire) for an average cost of 4.9 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh), “which is approaching parity with the market price of energy,” the state’s Department of Energy & Environmental Protection pointed out.
HB 365 ignores this trend and would force utilities to buy net-metered solar energy at the default energy rate, which is about 9 cents per kWh. That is more than double the market price of about 4 cents per kWh.
Why would New Hampshire force its own citizens to pay more for solar power than the state of Connecticut is willing to pay?
This forced subsidy runs against the bill’s opening statement, which declares that “New Hampshire’s electricity consumers, including municipalities, manufacturers, commercial businesses, and other large users, strongly support more competitive retail options to lower their energy costs.”
Rather than encouraging alternative energy production that would compete on price, thus lowering energy costs, HB 365 would push prices higher by compelling consumers to buy solar power at above-market rates.
HB 365 represents a wealth transfer from all electricity consumers to net-metered solar energy producers. New Hampshire’s electricity rates are already among the highest in the nation. This bill would make the situation worse, not better — at a time when solar costs are falling and the case for subsidies is falling along with them.

The election is 25 days away and the nation’s greatest political minds are dutifully disgorging rivers of commentary on the two most important topics of 2018: A couple of dudes named Kanye and Beto.

Weeks before the election, America’s Great Explainers think that what the country really needs are 2,000-word think pieces and cable TV arguments about a rapper’s deep emotional reasons for choosing a particular piece of headwear and the fundraising prowess and THS (Total Hipness Score) of a U.S. Senate candidate who still isn’t polling above his rival despite having been in a rock band when a younger lad.

This is why it’s always better to spend October in the hills and mountains of New Hampshire. This year, the colors are spectacular and they could hang on through Election Day. But don’t let the dazzling oranges, reds and yellows distract you from the need to pile up firewood and collect dragonglass. For winter is coming. And when it gets here it’s is going to punch you in the face.

Not all of you, though. Just those who heat with oil.

On Wednesday the U.S. Energy Information Agency released its annual Winter Fuels Outlook. If you heat with propane or natural gas, you’ll be fine. If you heat with oil, you probably should buy more blankets. Or an alpaca.

The EIA predicted average price changes this winter of -1 percent for propane, 3 percent for electricity, 5 percent for natural gas and 20 percent for home heating oil.

Now would be a good time to switch from oil to natural gas. Alas, you can’t just go down to the general store and pick up some Mountain Dew, a couple of pumpkin whoopie pies and a month’s supply of natural gas. You need to have it piped directly to your home. (The gas, not the Mountain Dew, although Pepsi should really get on that.)

But you might not be able to switch to natural gas because most of New Hampshire lacks the infrastructure for home natural gas service even though demand for natural gas is extremely high.

Gas utilities say they’d love to build lines to more homes. One, Liberty Utilities, has proposed doing that for communities along Route 101 from Portsmouth to Manchester. But to bring that residential service, utilities say they need more access to supply, which means more pipelines.

Although some new pipelines have been built or are under construction in New England, many large projects in recent years have been killed by anti-pipeline activists.

Liberty Utilities projects that its Granite Bridge project along Route 101 would save customers $950 million over 20 years. But, of course, activists are trying to prevent its construction. There must be no new pipelines of any kind anywhere anytime.

If that anti-consumer, anti-progress mindset continues to prevail in New England, it will condemn Granite Staters and other New Englanders to harder, more expensive winters for decades to come. Wind and solar cannot heat your home during a long, cold winter. Natural gas burns more cleanly, more efficiently, and less expensively than wood or oil. Yet if you live outside of Keene, Berlin, the Portsmouth area or the I-93 corridor up to Gilford, the activists are working hard to prevent you from having this home heating option.

For families, the financial impact of this obstructionism is huge. The EIA projects an average cost this winter of $595 to heat a home with natural gas vs. $1,646 to heat with oil. Restricting the supply of natural gas in New England by blocking pipeline construction has a direct and large negative impact on Granite Staters.

In “Game of Thrones,” winter is always coming, and that’s always bad. For low-income New England families who heat with oil, winter can bring the same foreboding. States should stop preventing them from accessing a more affordable, cleaner-burning fuel.

Every time you pay your electricity or heating bill, you’re lighting your money on fire. That is, you’re trading money for the energy released by burning some combustible material — natural gas, home heating oil, wood pellets, etc. So in effect, you’re burning your money.

That’s OK, it’s how a market economy works. You don’t make your own clothes or slaughter your own food or build your own home by hand, you pay other people to do those things. (Excepting some of you in the North Country.) When you trade money for energy, you’re basically burning money. The priority, then, is to burn as little of it as possible.

In New Hampshire, politicians keep preventing you from doing that. In fact, they continue to force you to burn more money for electricity than you would otherwise choose to burn.

On Thursday, legislators overrode Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto of Senate Bill 365. The bill forces electric utility companies to buy power at above-market rates from the state’s six biomass power plants and municipal solid waste incinerators.

The bill’s own fiscal note projected that it would cause electricity rates to rise by between $15 million and $20 million a year. So legislators knew exactly what they were doing. They knowingly voted to make you burn more of your money than necessary when buying electricity.

They’re very practiced at this. Over the years, legislators have passed one law after another to prohibit electric utilities from buying power at the lowest available price.

All of these costs add up. Here are just two examples.

A 2015 study by the Beacon Hill Institute found that New Hampshire’s Renewable Portfolio Standards would raise electricity prices by 3.7 percent by 2025, for a total impact of $70 million.

A previous biomass subsidy bill passed just last year, SB 129, also forced utilities to buy additional power from biomass plants. Its costs were estimated at around $75 million to $100 million.

To understand how these mandates make electricity more expensive, imagine you’re a cave man who needs to build a fire. Og is willing to offer you a bundle of wood he chopped himself for one rabbit pelt. Unk is offering you a bundle of organic, cured, and deodorized buffalo chips for one rabbit pelt and a handful of arrow heads.

You just need a fire. You’ve got a fresh squirrel in your deer-skin sack, you’re hungry, and you’ve got to make a new spear to replace the one you lost when that mammoth ran off with it dangling from its side. (WHY WON”T THOSE THINGS JUST DIE??) So you turn to Og.

At that moment, the clan’s code enforcement officer strides up to remind you of the clan leader’s decree that everyone has to use organic buffalo chips as a fuel source once a week. (Unk is the clan leader’s cousin.) You used wood every day this week. You’ve got to buy the dung.

You give Unk your worst arrow heads, naturally, but now you’re out all those arrow heads and will have to make more. You’re no warmer than you were before. The fire didn’t cook your meat any better. It just cost more because someone with power ordered you to support the organic dung industry.

There are other ways politicians and regulators force prices higher. They can even be politicians and regulators in neighboring states.

Across the country, electricity prices have fallen thanks to the natural gas boom. But the prices fall faster and farther in places where politicians don’t block pipeline construction. In New England (and New York), politicians and regulators have made it extremely difficult to build new pipelines.

As ISO New England has pointed out, though natural gas power generation has grown tremendously in in the last 20 years, “the natural gas pipelines that deliver low-cost shale gas into the region have not been expanded at a commensurate pace.”

Public policy is a major reason why New Hampshire has the fifth-highest electric rates in the country.

Politicians could immediately lower those rates by repealing laws and withdrawing regulations that prohibit utilities from buying power at the lowest available market price.

Instead, legislators continue to add new laws that push prices ever higher.

Utilities want to sell us power for less money. They would if they could. But the state forbids it. This needs to stop. We shouldn’t allow our politicians to force us to light our own money on fire.

New Hampshire Public Radio reported this week on a study showing that rural New Englanders pay a higher percentage of their income on energy. This isn’t really new information. But it was a slow news week and the report’s recommended solutions seemed written to get NPR listeners to spill their morning coffees from their pledge drive mugs from all the vigorous head nodding.

The study concluded that Americans on average spend 3.3 percent of their income on energy, but for rural households the burden rises to 4.4 percent. In New England, rural households spend 5.1 percent.

The proposed solution? Energy efficiency projects. It’s probably a total coincidence that the report was released by a group called the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

It’s true that making homes more energy efficient reduces energy use, thus reducing bills. ISO New England, the non-profit that runs New England’s energy grid, noted in this year’s Operational Fuel-Security Analysis that New England states have collectively spent more than $1 billion to improve energy efficiency, slightly tapering energy demand.

Since 2005, electricity demand in New England has fallen from a combination of the recession, milder weather, increased adoption of small-scale solar power, and energy efficiency investments, according to ISO New England.

Yet energy remains extremely expensive and the region remains at risk of rolling blackouts during periods of peak demand. Another billion dollars on energy efficiency could help shrink demand a little more, but it’s not going to solve the cost and supply problems.

To ensure enough capacity for peak demand times and to bring down prices for everyone — from low-income rural households to major manufacturers — we need more infrastructure and fewer rate-raising regulations like subsidies for politically favored power producers.

ISO New England projects a 4,600 megawatt reduction in power generation capacity by June of 2021. But states and communities are rejecting the construction the new infrastructure needed to replace those megawatts.

ISO New England figures show that in 2000, coal and oil generated 40% of New England’s electricity, and natural gas just 15%. By 2015, natural gas generated 49% and oil and coal just 3%.

Fracking fueled this change. Since 2009, natural gas has become much cheaper than coal and oil (and it produces fewer emissions). But we can’t tap it from maple trees (unfortunately, because flaming maples would be pretty great on Halloween).

We need pipelines to bring natural gas here. Without more pipelines, we’ll continue seeing high prices and more ships from Russia and other energy exporting countries docking in Boston.

In recent years, pipeline projects have been rejected throughout New England with such animosity that you’d think they were importing emerald ash borers or New York Yankees players. For proposing to bring enough fuel to ensure that Red Sox Nation survives winter, they’ve been run out of town. That’ll show ‘em.

We’ve artificially restricted our energy supply and raised rates by blocking construction and heavily regulating the sector. This has hurt rural and low-income residents.

And by the way, our housing policies have done the same thing.

Rural residents tend to live in older homes, and older homes are less energy efficient. The subsidized winterizing of old homes is always the recommended approach, but it is not going to address the underlying problem, which —like energy generation — is one of artificially restricted supply.

Home construction costs are at record highs because of rising labor costs, land costs, lumber costs, credit costs, and regulations. Every one of these costs is being driven higher by government policies — from immigration to tariffs to zoning to building codes to financial regulations. Regulatory costs account for 24 percent of the price of a new home, according to a National Association of Home Builders study.

If we scaled back housing, labor, land use, trade, and energy regulations, we would see energy and home construction prices rise less quickly or even fall. People of all income levels could better afford to buy, heat, and live in new homes.

But untangling those regulatory webs is difficult. It’s simpler to ask legislators to meddle in the markets by passing laws to shield lower-income residents from the consequences of the legislators’ past meddling.

How many lumberjacks live in New Hampshire?

Given the debate over Gov. Chris Sununu’s vetoes of two bills to further subsidize the state’s forest products industry, it’s an important question. No one seems to know the answer.

Supporters of the two bills, Senate Bills 365 and 446, say the subsidies would save 900 jobs. Sometimes they say 1,000 jobs. These figures are supposed to include people who depend on the forest products industry for their own livelihoods.

Maybe. But state data show only about 400 people employed in forestry and logging in New Hampshire. That’s down from the high 400s a decade ago.

Some of those good folks showed up in Concord on Thursday to demand that legislators override Gov. Chris Sununu’s vetoes and add even more subsidies to the already subsidized biomass and solar power industries. This is corporate welfare dressed in flannel.

Legislators know that a direct state subsidy of the state’s dwindling number of biomass plants, financed by tax increases, would be a non-starter. So they found another way to pay for this corporate giveaway: Hide the costs in everyone’s utility bills.

Both bills force utilities to pay above-market rates for electricity, thus raising prices for consumers. Because the rate increases would be mandated by law, they’d have the same effect as a tax hike. But because they’d be hidden in your electricity bill, they wouldn’t show up on any list of new taxes.

Nice trick.

The state Public Utilities Commission estimated that SB 365 would cost the average commercial utility customer in New Hampshire an extra $5.15 a month, which comes to $75.60 a year. In total, the bill would cost ratepayers about $20 million annually.

Utility customers would get nothing in return for that extra $20 million. It’s just a mandatory price increase. Instead of buying electricity from the lowest-cost producer, utilities would have to buy some of it from the state’s biomass plants, which can’t produce electricity as cheaply as their competitors can.

SB 446 would further increase electricity rates (by an undetermined amount) by letting these biomass plants and other producers build large-scale solar systems — and then forcing utilities to buy that solar power at inflated prices.

These aren’t just subsidies. They’re laws that forbid utilities from buying power at the best rates.

It’s critical to understand that because these bills never became law, upholding the governor’s vetoes takes nothing away from the forest products industry in New Hampshire. It simply means that ratepayers aren’t forced to pay them tens of millions of dollars more each year for the exact same product — electricity — that can be purchased from other providers at a lower cost.

Supporters say the bills are needed to save jobs. But jobs are plentiful in New Hampshire right now. What they really mean is that they’d like everyone to pay more for electricity so about 400 people can keep very specific jobs.

The unemployment rate is 3.2 percent in Coos County, 2.3 percent in Carroll County and 2.1 percent in Grafton County. The economy is galloping like wildlife fleeing the booming steps of Paul Bunyon. The issue is not whether jobs are available in the most thickly forested parts of New Hampshire. They are.

The issue is whether the state should forcibly confiscate tens of millions of dollars a year from 1.3 million people in an attempt to preserve specific jobs for about 400 people.

At about $20 million a year, SB 365 alone would generate enough money to pay each person in the forestry and logging industry roughly $50,000. Tuition at Harvard University this fall is $46,340.

If legislators override the governor’s vetoes, they will force Granite Staters to pay enough money in utility overcharges to purchase a Harvard degree for every forest and logging industry worker in the state every four years.

But instead of buying Harvard degrees or any other form of education or training to enable folks in a struggling industry to better survive a changing labor market, Granite Staters will be freezing a few hundred jobs in time — as the world continues to move on. That’s not a good use of $80 million.

These bills also would hurt Granite Staters who are even worse off than the people in the forest products industry. Higher electricity rates will eat into the budgets of low-income residents as well as manufacturers and other businesses. At 7.3 percent, New Hampshire has the lowest poverty rate in the country. But that still comes to about 95,000 Granite Staters living below the poverty level. To provide a handout to 400 employed people, these bills would take money from scores of thousands of low-income people, many of whom have worse employment prospects.

Subsidies can sound nice and compassionate. Most people want to help their fellow man. But subsidies aren’t just help. Unlike free trade, in which both parties win by getting something they want at an agreed-to price, subsidies help some by harming others. They do this because they force people against their will to pay for something they neither want nor need (in this case, high-priced electricity). That’s not compassion; that’s compulsion.

Economic progress, like progress in any field, cannot be achieved by freezing the status quo in place. Government attempts to do so result only in delaying rather than advancing progress.

Following Gov. Chris Sununu’s June 19 veto of two bills to subsidize New Hampshire’s biomass power plants, three of those plants announced that they were winding down their operations. Some blame the governor for the plants going idle. That’s like blaming the National Endowment of the Arts for the demise of jazz.

Jazz, once America’s dominant form of music, in 2014 tied classical as the least popular genre. Chuck Berry, a huge jazz fan, released Maybellene in 1955, dooming the genre that put the “roll” in rock ’n’ roll.

Musical tastes changed, and no subsidy from Washington elites could’ve protected the big bands of the 1940s or the quartets of the 1950s from the rock ’n’ roll revolution.

In the economy, industries rise and fall too, moved by forces that are beyond the control of public officials or elite taste-makers.

The forest products industry in New Hampshire has suffered a decades-long decline triggered by cultural and economic changes no government meddling can reverse.

In 1957, when Berry released his classic song “Rock and Roll Music,” 7,810 people were employed in paper manufacturing in Coos County alone. By 2013, when Robin Thicke topped the charts with “Blurred Lines,” UNH’s Cooperative Extension service reportedthat 7,756 people were employed in the forest products, maple and Christmas tree sectors combined in the entire state. That year, 3,000 more people were employed in forest-based tourism occupations than in production.

(By the way, by 2013 rock ’n’ roll had all but vanished from the Billboard Hot 100, replaced by pop and hip-hop. Only one rock band, Paramore, had a year-end top 100 song that year. If only federal taxpayers had subsidized Guns n Roses….)

Cake, one of the last great alternative rock bands, had a single on its last album called “Federal Funding” in which it mocked government funding for the well-connected. Cake got it what many people don’t. Government subsidies benefit political insiders at the expense of everyone else.

No one wants loggers to lose jobs they love. But the notion that the state’s timber industry can be saved by forcing electricity ratepayers to subsidize a handful of inefficient biomass power plants was never based in a realistic assessment of the New Hampshire economy, the forest products industry, basic economics or clever alternative rock lyrics.

New Hampshire’s economy has evolved over the centuries, as all economies have done since the rise of capitalism and democratic governance. Subsidies for favored industries can only delay the inevitable, and at a high cost.

A report last year concluded that Maine has spent $250 million to prop up its fading biomass industry. New Hampshire, which has for years forced electricity ratepayers to subsidize the industry, would make its economy weaker, not stronger, by continuing this practice.

Biomass plants are in trouble because it’s cheaper to create electricity by burning natural gas than by burning wood. If forcing people and businesses to buy more expensive wood-generated electricity was good for the economy, then we would have the best economy in the country simply by passing laws mandating that people buy only New Hampshire-made goods and services.

Imagine. Instead of driving dangerous automobiles, we could all be riding around in luxurious Concord Coaches. Instead of using national airline companies, we could sail to Europe on gorgeous tall ships built in Portsmouth. Sure, it would be hugely expensive and wasteful for consumers, but think of all the jobs that would be saved!

Sadly, that’s not how the economy works. States can only hurt economic growth by forcing people to pay higher prices for locally made goods and services.

Trying to freeze some economic sectors in time is never good policy, but it’s especially bad when the state has so many job openings that it’s experiencing a severe worker shortage. The best move is to let people transition from jobs in declining industries to jobs that are in higher demand and offer a brighter future.

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.