Articles filed under Energy Policy from New Hampshire
With so many major projects in play, the role of the committee has never been so politically charged. Since 2013, two bills have been signed into law that were designed to enhance public participation and provide more protections for property owners during committee deliberations, but critics say the process is moving in the opposite direction.
House Bill 208 originally would have repealed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative program, but was changed by the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee to retain the emissions reduction program, but use all the money generated by emission allowance auctions as rebates to electric customers.
Flanagan said the program has created a slush fund used to balance the state budget, more than encouraging renewables. The state Legislature in 2013 grabbed more than $17 million from the Renewable Energy Fund to balance the budget and bail out the financially troubled Tri-County Community Action program in the North Country, leaving a balance of $7.8 million for renewable energy grants and rebates.
DOVER — New Hampshire has work to do if it wants to secure its energy future.
While highlighting what he said is a "lack of adequate infrastructure" in New England, Tony Clark, a member of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, also told U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., in an Oct. 15 letter that he is concerned that "there is a deeper flaw in the existing electricity regulatory regimes in place throughout the Northeastern United States."
Asked what specific steps the U.S. should take to reduce its reliance on foreign oil, U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster barely mentions natural gas, while her Republican challenger in the 2nd District, Marilinda Garcia, doesn't mention renewable energy sources
Nearly half of New England’s electricity is now generated by natural gas, compared with just 15 percent in 2000. But officials say the region doesn’t have the pipeline infrastructure to match the need. The problems arise during the winter, when electric power generators and home heating companies are both vying for natural gas, which is funneled to the region through pipelines coming from the Pennsylvania area.
“New Hampshire Wind Watch is appalled by the governor’s selection,” said Lori Lerner, president of the group that aims to educate people about the effects of industrial wind projects in the state. The public member is meant be a citizen affected by the energy projects, Lerner said. “The intent was never to have legislators or additional state officials in the process.”
Gov. Maggie Hassan has nominated Republican state Sen. Bob Odell and Democratic state Rep. Amanda Merrill to sit on the committee in charge of permitting Northern Pass and any future wind farms or pipeline projects in the state.
Building more electricity transmission into New England isn't about an "energy crisis." It's about economics, jobs, corporate profit, failure to make the small fixes that add up, failure to do detailed analysis, failure to resist stampede crisis mentality, and lots of other things.
“It just seems to me as if taking money from everybody and giving it to government selected resource, saying we’re going to subsidize you and keep your costs low, I’m not even sure it’s legal,” said Michael Harrington, a former New Hampshire Public Utilities commissioner.
Clearly, the time has come for solar and wind to compete on their own with coal and nuclear power, without state mandates or subsidies. Ohio recently rolled back its renewable mandate, freezing the phasing in of power that utilities must buy from renewable energy sources. New Hampshire should do the same.
“The states and NESCOE are deliberately working out the details of this plan in secret, consistent with the view of one of NESCOE’s staffers that the plan should be ‘formulated behind closed doors’ because the ‘court of public opinion can be fickle and recalcitrant,’ ” Courchesne wrote, quoting an email from a NESCOE staff member to Executive Director Heather Hunt.
Developers are pitching plans, and are now offering states handsome “benefits packages” in seeking their support. In addition, states could earn millions from new property or infrastructure taxes, the leasing of existing right-of-ways and financial returns on public investment in the lines. But these assurances aren’t enough, according to Kerrick Johnson, vice president of Vermont Electric Power Co., or VELCO.
The Site Evaluation Committee has come under greater scrutiny as more wind farm projects have been proposed. Lawmakers are concerned the agency may not have the expertise to evaluate the proposals.
The SEC’s vice-chair, PUC chairwoman Amy Ignatius, told lawmakers, “what used to work as an ad-hoc grouping that would come together for a particular project, now really is becoming overwhelming. The state’s four largest environmental groups presented a united front in favor of the proposal, but stressed that they considered it a work in progress.
Citizens must have faith that their voices are heard in the Site Evaluation Committee decision-making process. This is a fundamental requirement, and the perception today is that the current siting process does not provide the public with that assurance.
One of the biggest questions of this legislative session is how New Hampshire lawmakers will tweak the rules for how the state approves Energy Projects, in a body called the Site Evaluation Committee? Critics of the Northern Pass and wind farms have converged on this issue as one area where they might get something through the statehouse, and they’ve even found common ground with some project developers, who think the SEC process is unwieldy.
"We are encouraged by the tremendous progress we have made during this past year. Today's vote reflects new found awareness and support," said New Hampshire Wind Watch in a statement."The time will no doubt arrive soon when the state will respect and fully recognize the rights of towns and communities in New Hampshire to democratically self-determine," the group said in a statement.
Given the stakes for New Hampshire’s future, it seems reasonable to ask project developers to wait a few months so a better process can be put in place to judge projects that once built will impact New Hampshire citizens for generations. The House should pass HB 580 and give us all a chance to make the best decisions for our state.