Legislative preview: Four energy bills to put close party split in NH House on full view
Renewables, energy-efficiency measures to go before full membership on Tuesday
It won’t exactly be a Valentine’s Day lovefest at the State House following the governor’s budget address on Tuesday. That’s because members of the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee were at loggerhead over four bills that will come before the full House without a recommendation. So it will be up to a narrowly split, unwieldy body of 400 volunteer lawmakers to try to sort it out.
House Bill 234 is the first one up. It would end the Renewable Energy Credit “sweeping.” RECs are what people and companies get when they create renewable energy, but they have to be claimed. If they aren’t, the RECs become property of the utility and count toward meeting its Renewable Energy Portfolio goals and go toward lowering any alternative compliance payments.
“No other state permits this,” wrote Rep. Tony Caplan, D-Henniker in the House Calendar, arguing that it amounts to a taking of private property.
He added that “REC sweeping has decimated the NH REC market, and significantly decreased Alternative Compliance Payments – the only source of funding for the Renewable Energy Fund – NH’s sole mechanism for investing in the clean energy transition. The argument that ending REC sweeping could increase electricity bills is inconsequential, as any possible increase would be literally pennies on the average monthly bill.”
But those pennies add up to $3 million a year, argued Rep. James Summers R-Newton, who described RECs as the carrot in the RPS to stimulate investment in low-emission renewable energy generation technologies, and since they aren’t claimed, those specific incentives aren’t needed.
The debate is similar but the stakes are higher when it comes to HB 246, which would rebate all of the money going into the Renewable Energy Fund for two years. That would cut $7 million to 8 million ever year from the fund but provide “some respite from last year’s energy price hike,” said Rep. Jeanine Notter, R-Merrimack, the bill’s sponsor. That respite comes out to $1.40 per month for the average ratepayer the first year, and 40 cents a month afterward, countered Rep. Chris Muns, D-Hampton. “Collectively, investing that money in alternative energy projects, we can continue to diversify our sources of electricity to end our over-reliance on natural gas based on past state energy policy decisions”
Now just move that debate – saving small amounts on individual bills vs. funding collective actions that theoretically can lower individual bills even more – to energy efficiency, and you have the committee divide over HB 418, which would eliminate rebates from the money raised by Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI.
RGGI gets its money through a levy on energy producers for the amount of carbon gases and equivalents that are put into the atmosphere, and what’s collected is distributed to the states, which mostly use it to reduce energy consumption.
But New Hampshire gives all but the first dollar back to ratepayers. Ending the rebate would mean that $40 million would go to the NHSaves program, but would cost individual ratepayers $1.77 a month, which “will not make a big difference in their monthly budget. The easiest way to reduce their overall cost of energy is to invest in programs to conserve energy and make their homes and businesses more energy efficient with a demonstrated 3:1 return on investment,” said Muns.
The last split is over HB 630, which would set up a revolving clean energy accelerated loan fund known as a “green bank” to accept all of that Inflation Reduction Act money coming from the U.S. Department of Energy. Proponents argued that creating the bank would give the state a better shot at the funds, but opponents said the state shouldn’t decide how to receive and spend the money before the federal government sets up the program’s rules.
The committee did agree on HB 576 which would help set up C-PACE, another green financing tool, that helps fund projects that can’t get traditional financing. The committee recommended the bill on a 15-4 vote.