A lame NH rallying cry: ‘We’re number 20!’

Yes, NH has moved up one notch on the energy efficiency scorecard

NHSaves Partners Help Granite State Break into ACEEE Top 20,” proclaimed a ratepayer-funded news release from the consortium of New Hampshire utilities that delivers the state’s ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs.

This headline refers to the recently issued annual scorecard of the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

Yes, New Hampshire has moved up one notch since the 2018 scorecard. But New Hampshire remains dead last in New England. In fact, you have to go all the way to Delaware before you come to another state with a worse ranking for energy efficiency than ours.

Given that energy is expensive, it’s a no-brainer to pursue the cheapest way to meet the next kilowatt-hour of demand for electricity or the next BTU of natural gas. Energy efficiency is that cheapest option.

“It is exciting to be a part of New Hampshire’s Top 20 ranking, which is a testament to the state for recognizing the economic and environmental value energy efficiency delivers to families, businesses, and communities across the region and beyond,” bubbled Penni Conner, Eversource’s senior vice president and chief customer officer, in that news release.

As someone with responsibilities across the Eversource tri-state footprint, Connor is aware that her company is delivering energy-efficiency programs in the top-ranked state for efficiency. That would be Massachusetts.

Why is Massachusetts No. 1? A bunch of reasons. The scorecard assesses how well the 50 states plus the District of Columbia are doing across a broad range of energy-efficiency realms, ranging from transportation policy to appliance standards.

But where Massachusetts really stands out is in the category, “utility and public benefits programs and policies” — energy-efficiency programs funded on a mandatory basis by utility customers.

But where Massachusetts gets 20 out of a possible 20 points from in this category, New Hampshire earned only 9.5. Why?

Both states rely on their utilities to deliver ratepayer-funded energy efficiency. Both states have a so-called energy-efficiency resource standard — a commitment to “all cost-effective energy efficiency.”

Still, Massachusetts is spending vastly more on energy-efficiency programs. In 2018, Massachusetts spent a sum equal to 6.42% of electricity sales while the Granite State was far behind at 2.02%.

The results are starkly divergent.

In 2018, New Hampshire’s electric utilities saved 0.75% of sales with newly added ratepayer-funded energy efficiency. The comparable figure for Massachusetts was 2.82% – almost four times the energy efficiency New Hampshire is achieving for electric customers.

Our energy-efficiency resource standard is only one-fourth as potent as the Bay State’s because we lack the courage to increase our energy-efficiency budget to the necessary level. That’s true even though the overall result is all customers, both residential and business, saving money.

Imagine if people like Penni Conner — or Bill Quinlan, president of Eversource’s Public Service of New Hampshire — issued news releases, gave speeches to business leaders and testified at the State House about how we could give Massachusetts a run for its money when it comes to energy efficiency. They know how to do it because their company, Eversource, is doing it while we in New Hampshire are watching it happen.

This is not to say that the ACEEE scorecard is immune to criticism.

In my view, the ACEEE is unfairly reducing its calculation of how much energy New Hampshire is saving because it does not approve of the way we convert “gross” savings to “net” savings. Likewise, the ACEEE is withholding points for not doing enough in the realm of combined heat and power. This ignores the entirely plausible reality that in a state such as ours, which is relying less and less on heat-producing industrial processes to drive our economy, harnessing waste-heat is less of a priority.

We would be ranked higher than 20th on the ACEEE scorecard without these arguably unfair aspects of our grade. But New Hampshire would still be last in New England.

Next year is an important one for ratepayer-funded energy efficiency in New Hampshire. Stakeholders, including the utilities, will be sitting down and hammering out a new three-year plan for implementing our energy-efficiency resource standard. Will we continue losing the race while issuing press releases implying that we are winning?

D. Maurice Kreis is consumer advocate for the state of New Hampshire. This article is co-published by Manchester Ink Link and InDepthNH.org.

Categories: Opinion