The governor, and the state, are at an energy crossroads

Change is inevitable, despite the efforts of outside interests

The three major energy bills (Senate Bills 365, 446 and 577) from this year’s legislative session are finally on the governor’s desk for his action. Much speculation over the past month has centered on the question of whether the governor will veto any of these bills. There has been no shortage of input into the governor’s office on the fate of all three bills.

SB 365 and SB 577 focus on the three-year continuation of the New Hampshire biomass industry, and how its sustainability ties into a myriad of economic and public policy issues in the North Country and throughout the state.

Senators Bradley and Giuda have been champions on these wood industry issues, and they understand the delicate balance of how our tourism and forest products industries affect the overall wellbeing of our rural communities. Together, very good stuff for some near-term solutions.

SB 446 expands the legal limits for the net metering of electricity from 1 megawatt to 5 megawatts. This bill allows both municipalities and businesses to make investments in New Hampshire to control their energy costs, and in the process, reduces regional transmission and capacity costs for all New Hampshire ratepayers. Once again, very good stuff for ratepayers and taxpayers for some long term solutions.

Collectively, most New Hampshire residents would view these three bills as a step forward. However, outside forces with inside tentacles are working hard to kill these bills because they have competing economic interests.

Investor-owned utilities don’t want these changes because there is no profit in it for them. Competing interests in fossil-fueled projects don’t want them because they want you to continue to buy more of their energy. These are not Republican v. Democrat issues, as evidenced by the strong bipartisan passage of all three bills. However, these tentacles reach deep into the political fabric of our state and the many corporate and non-profit surrogates that are tied to them.

In the old energy economy we used a lot of fossil-fueled electricity, sold and distributed by monopolized investor owned utilities. In the new energy economy we will use a lot more renewable energy (including new self-generation), efficiency, demand side management and energy storage to balance our energy supply needs, along with natural gas (being the dominate fossil fuel survivor) and our existing nuclear fleet.

No matter how much these outside interests fight now to deter this change, the outcome is inevitable. This is not if, but when. New technology and customer demands change life around us every day.

This energy turf battle, which now falls on the Governor’s desk, is all about short-term financial interests and not long-term inevitabilities. Good public policy suggests that this trio of bills should be enacted in whole. They are not a “forever” solution for what is good for our state, but nothing is. Smart legislating and good public policy go hand in hand with change.

We urge the governor to stay clear of the pitfalls that come with the pressures from outside financial interests, and allow these bills to become law as good public policy would dictate, for New Hampshire’s short term and long term needs.

Harold Turner, a small business owner and professional engineer who lives and works in Concord, is also the chair of the Granite Institute, a 501(c) 3 State Policy Network-affiliated think tank. 

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