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Ratepayer tab on renewable energy could total $2 billion

The state renewable energy law that made it feasible for controversial new "wind parks'' will also cost New Hampshire consumers in higher electricity bills. They may pay $2 billion by the year 2025 under the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) -- an extra $5 a month, a University of New Hampshire study concludes. But these are just estimates. The state's consumer advocate and utility companies say there really is no way at this point to figure the actual cost.

CONCORD – The state renewable energy law that made it feasible for controversial new "wind parks'' will also cost New Hampshire consumers in higher electricity bills.

They may pay $2 billion by the year 2025 under the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) -- an extra $5 a month, a University of New Hampshire study concludes.

But these are just estimates. The state's consumer advocate and utility companies say there really is no way at this point to figure the actual cost.

Wind, water, wood and solar, it is hoped, will slowly replace coal and oil as the state moves toward deriving 25 percent of its electricity from such sources by 2025. That figure was about 10 percent in 2005, mostly from hydropower. But that must change under a 2007 law passed by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. John Lynch.

Key to the cost under RPS will be how many renewable energy projects start up. The more the choices, the lower the cost, utility officials say. But some such projects would not be built if it were not for the new law helping to subsidize the efforts.

Last week, a Public Service spokesman acknowledged... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

CONCORD – The state renewable energy law that made it feasible for controversial new "wind parks'' will also cost New Hampshire consumers in higher electricity bills.

They may pay $2 billion by the year 2025 under the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) -- an extra $5 a month, a University of New Hampshire study concludes.

But these are just estimates. The state's consumer advocate and utility companies say there really is no way at this point to figure the actual cost.

Wind, water, wood and solar, it is hoped, will slowly replace coal and oil as the state moves toward deriving 25 percent of its electricity from such sources by 2025. That figure was about 10 percent in 2005, mostly from hydropower. But that must change under a 2007 law passed by the state Legislature and signed by Gov. John Lynch.

Key to the cost under RPS will be how many renewable energy projects start up. The more the choices, the lower the cost, utility officials say. But some such projects would not be built if it were not for the new law helping to subsidize the efforts.

Last week, a Public Service spokesman acknowledged that the renewable energy, and the "credits'' they produce, costs more to buy and that projects such as windmills in remote Coos County would not be built without the new law.

Public Service of New Hampshire, which has 460,000 of the state's roughly 500,000 residential ratepayers, estimates that by 2025 they will have spent $1.8 billion on renewables.

New Hampshire Electric Cooperative estimates $160 million will be the cost to its ratepayers to fully comply with the law.

PSNH spokesman Martin Murray said price volatility, reliance on foreign sources, and pollution are reasons the state developed a program to encourage development of renewable power sources.

Murray said estimates for customer costs related to implementing RPS consider all classes of renewable power, from wind farms to wood-to-energy plants.

Steve Kaminski, vice president of power supply and access at the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, said there are a lot of unknowns in the cost estimates, most significant of which are market forces and whether future legislatures will change the program.

"If robust (renewable energy) supplies develop, and the RPS requirements stay the same, the cost of compliance will be less. Only time will tell," Kaminski said.

Meredith Hatfield at the New Hampshire Office of Consumer Advocate said when the law was being deliberated in 2006 and 2007 the public response was "pretty positive because of the economic benefits" that would accrue from being less dependent on foreign oil and other fossil fuels.

There was really no organized opposition, she said.

A bill that passed this year also gives ratepayers a "green" option to buy more renewable power now and pay a higher rate, she said.

The Campaign for Ratepayers' Rights, which organized in 1983 in opposition to the Seabrook nuclear power plant, supported RPS and touts its benefits on its Web site.

"This is a major step toward reducing threats to the environment ... A shift to renewable energy will also provide a new market for economic development," it reads.

Building wind parks and biomass plants would mean new jobs and create markets for low-grade wood, according to the UNH study commissioned by the state Department of Environmental Services.

It concluded the new law will bring 1,100 new jobs to the state and more than $1 million in tax revenues by 2025.

"There are costs associated with a RPS; however, the net economic and environmental benefits are expected to be positive for New Hampshire," the study said.

The study estimated the cost to the average consumer would be from .5 to .9 percent of their electric bill in 2008; 1.8 to 4.4 percent by 2015; and 1.2 to 8 percent by 2025.

State Rep. Naida Kaen, D-Lee, chairman of the House Science Technology and Energy Committee, said the RPS represents years of discussion on the need to diversify the state's energy supply. She said there was little concern voiced for the cost to consumers. There are no changes contemplated with the law right now, she said.

Kaen noted the law has had its intended effect -- to help draw new, renewable power production to the region.

The state recently approved a plan to build a 99-megawatt wind project in Coos County, which is still subject to appeal and federal permitting. Other projects, particularly biomass plants, are also in the pipeline.

The New Hampshire Business and Industry Association has been supportive of RPS, listing development of renewable energy resources among its priorities.

Jim Rubens, a former state senator who worked on behalf of the Union of Concerned Scientists to pass RPS, said the costs have to be measured against the benefits.

"Forty percent of the oil we import to run America is from sworn enemies," Rubens said.

He sees RPS reducing energy price spikes.

"That means those who heat their homes and run their factories will pay less," Rubens said.


Source: http://www.unionleader.com/...

AUG 17 2009
https://www.windaction.org/posts/21767-ratepayer-tab-on-renewable-energy-could-total-2-billion
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