Renewable energy bill goes into effect

The state’s new renewable portfolio bill went into effect July 10, but utilities won’t be required to buy alternative energy for some time to come.

Under the complex House Bill 873 – passed by lawmakers in April and signed by Gov. John Lynch on May 11 — utilities will, starting in 2008, be required to begin to offer a portfolio of alternative energy to its customers, or pay into a renewable energy fund. The goal is that by 2025 renewable energy will consist of 25 percent of the electricity sold in the state.

One way utilities can achieve these percentages is to buy “renewable energy certificates” as established by ISO-New England, which runs the regional power grid. These certificates can be bought and sold on the open market. Other states already have implemented such a system, prompting an acute interest in building such facilities in New Hampshire to sell renewable-source power in other states. With this bill, power generators can be assured that some of their energy will be sold in the Granite State.

The new law leaves the details of implementation of the measure up to the Public Utilities Commission and sets no deadlines for it to spell out those details, except that it be done in a “timely manner.”

For clarification, PUC general counsel Donald Kreis said that the rulemaking process will begin in the “near future.”

The first deadline appears to be in 2008, when utilities must offer energy with 3.5 percent from existing biomass plants (wood burning plants and methane) and a half percentage of hydroelectric. Most utilities are already meeting these percentages.

In 2009, a portfolio also must consist of a half percent new alternative energy (wind, geothermal, tidal and new biomass technologies), which would gradually increase to 16 percent by 2025. The solar requirement – which kicks in 2010 – also starts out small at 0.5 percent, then doubles to 1 percent in 2011 and stays at that level.

The percentages are not set in stone. The PUC can accelerate them or slow them down “for good cause,” and it could adjust the penalty for non-compliance for inflation. — BOB SANDERS

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