The RGGI program should work for everyone
In the nine years that New Hampshire has been a member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, the state has seen an increase in jobs and state revenue, benefits to small businesses and a robust and growing clean energy economy coupled with a decline in toxic carbon pollution emitted by fossil fuel plants. But, if we look to other states in the program, New Hampshire could be doing more.
According to RGGI’s State Investment Pages, since 2014 the state’s energy consumers have received $14.4 million in direct electricity bill assistance, 337 businesses and municipalities were upgraded to high energy-efficiency equipment and in their lifetime electricity customers are expected to save $92 million in energy costs that can be reinvested back into the New Hampshire economy. Not to mention, from 2008 and 2014, the RGGI program has kept 1.7 million tons of carbon dioxide from polluting the region’s air, which is the equivalent of taking over 325,000 cars off the road.
I am the owner of a family-run, local small business. We were able to take advantage of the RGGI energy improvement program in 2013 and invested in our aging building by upgrading the light fixtures, performing upgrades to the buildings insulation and sealing air leaks in the building’s outer shell. The overall cost of the upgrades was approximately $25,000, of which the grants covered about $15,000. We were able to upgrade our building by paying a little over a third of the actual price of the renovations and saving us on average about $50 a month or more in heating and electric costs.
Conversely, the Department of Environmental Services and the Public Utilities Commission states energy consumers and small businesses would lose about $12 million in electricity rebates and the state would lose $20 million in annual revenue if New Hampshire dropped out of the RGGI program. With numbers that clearly prove RGGI’s success, it’s time the House Science, Energy and Technology Committee hosts a work session to revisit the way RGGI operates in the state so it can benefit all, not just some.
One way to improve RGGI in New Hampshire is to include all energy users in the program. Right now, the large corporate businesses that pollute the most are allowed to bypass RGGI for a full refund. They are not required to invest in energy savings in their facilities or in their communities. It is these same corporate interests that are crying over the high energy costs and want expensive pipelines, power plants and transmission wires to be built and paid for by ratepayers. Let’s hold the line.
Currently $1 out of every $3 in a carbon credit goes to RGGI funding programs, while $2 goes to businesses that use the most energy and don’t pay to participate in the program. Low-income residents who qualify for home weatherization programs in Rockingham County are on a 20-year wait list because there aren’t enough funds going into Community Action Programs. And with New Hampshire stakeholders reviewing new modeling scenarios which could decrease pollution, now is the perfect time to increase the carbon pollution limit to 5 percent annually, bringing more economic and health benefits into the state.
In a recent bipartisan study conducted by Hart Research Associates and Chesapeake Beach Consulting, 68 percent of Granite Staters support a stronger carbon pollution limit of 5 percent and over 70 percent agree RGGI has a positive effect on people’s health and air quality. A stronger carbon pollution limit means more money for the RGGI region, and more money for programs within New Hampshire.
It’s time for equal treatment without loopholes for corporate interests. Everyone should pay their fair share for energy improvements. We all benefit. The House Science, Energy and Technology Committee should reconsider RGGI’s implementation in the state and eliminate the $1 threshold, put more money into Community Action Programs and urge Governor Sununu to support a carbon pollution limit of 5 percent annually.
Dan Weed is owner of Weed Family Automotive in Concord.