New Hampshire House backs bill to limit renewable energy incentives

Measure takes aim at state-mandated solar, wind requirements for utilities

The NH House narrowly voted last week to “tap the brakes” on the state’s policy to expand use of renewable energy, though critics of the bill might say it could bring the policy to a screeching halt.

The action, overshadowed by Gov. Chris Sununu’s State of the State address earlier that Thursday, would be a major pullback from state law requiring that utilities must obtain a quarter of their energy from renewable sources by 2025.

Unlike other fights over renewable energy, this one doesn’t touch the powerful forestry industry, which counts on renewable requirements to directly help biomass plants and indirectly aid wood chip sales. Instead House Bill 114 focuses on new sources, primarily solar and wind. It would freeze the percentage of solar and wind required in a utility’s energy portfolio at 6 percent, a level achieved last year, as opposed to the 15 percent required by 2025.

Utilities that don‘t meet the increasingly stringent regulations have to either make alternative compliance payments into the state’s renewable energy fund, which is used to subsidize renewable energy projects, or buy renewable energy credits from a renewable energy company.

The higher standards “will cost millions of dollars,” said Rep. Michael Harrington, R-Strafford “and that costs jobs. Every time you raise the cost of electricity you lose jobs.”

But it is not just the money, he added. People could pay more to use renewable but haven’t. Instead, the state was “forcing people to buy a particular type of product,” he said. “Let’s not use the power of the state to force people to buy the power we think is right.”

However opponents of the bill said it would reverse a longstanding bipartisan policy.

“It would in effect repeal a good part of the renewable portfolio standards,” said Rep. Bob Backus, D-Manchester who gave five reasons to kill the bill:

 • Lawmakers should wait for the Public Utilities Commission’s renewable portfolio standards study due in November.

 • The world market is moving toward renewable energy and New Hampshire would be left behind.

 • The bill would hurt the state’s fledgling clean emery industry.

 • It targets the part of the RPS that promotes innovation, hurting the state’s high-tech reputation

 • The costs are small, less than a third of penny per kilowatt hour, or $1.88 on the average monthly bill. By comparison, rates to cover the mercury scrubber at the Bow power plant recently sold by Eversource sold costs four times as much.

Rep. Suzanne Harvey, D-Nashua, added another reason: uncertainty caused by changing the RPS rules nearly every year will scare away investors from the renewable energy industry.

“It will create instability in the homegrown renewable market,” she said, calling the bill a “job killer.”

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