NH House panel wrestles with renewable energy bills

The New Hampshire House seems to be going along with the Senate on major bills aimed at increasing the use of renewable energy in the state – bills the governor is likely to veto.

But representatives appear to be reaching for a compromise on energy efficiency in an attempt to avoid a veto.

The House plans to accept a minor Senate amendment to allow the passage of House Bill 365, which would increase the size of renewable energy projects eligible for a net metering rate, announced House Science, Technology and Energy Committee Chair Rep. Bob Backus, D-Manchester Tuesday.

The committee voted, 17-2, to retain SB 159 – which would have done the same thing – in case the House bill doesn’t make it. Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed a similar bill last year, and the House failed to override by a narrow margin. This year, however, the House passed HB 365 by a veto-proof majority and the Senate passed its amended version on a unanimous voice vote.

The House committee also voted to pass SB 123, which would increase renewable portfolio standards from 25 percent in 2025 to 60 percent 2040, over strong Republican opposition.

“This will cost customers $5 billion,” said Rep. Fred Plett, R-Goffstown, who voted “hell no.”

But Rep. Howard Moffett, D-Canterbury, argued the opposite. “If we do not get to the point where we can get energy without paying for the fuel cost, we will see our energy rates go up and up and up. This will reduce energy rates in the long term”

The committee passed the bill, 12-7. If the House passes it next week without an amendment.

However, the committee pushed back on SB 122, which would have ended rebates from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. RGGI is funded by power generators in nine northeast states bidding for the right to emit tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Most of those states use that money to fund energy-efficiency programs, but New Hampshire rebates all but a small portion back to customers. SB 122 would have put the money toward energy efficiency, but the House committee retained it, hoping that the Senate would adopt its version, HB 582, which would just end the rebate for residential customers, but totally rebates RGGI funds for commercial ratepayers.

Moffett said the House bill would still mean $3 million a year going to energy efficiency, and “I believe it has some bipartisan support, and might be supported by the governor.“ He added that “it makes sense to compromise –

$3 million is better than nothing at all.”

Categories: Energy and Environment, Government, News