We can no longer afford the energy status quo

Infrastructure investments would bring NH cheaper, safer, cleaner power

With the winter months finally over, it is probably still fresh in your mind just how expensive it is to stay warm while the snow is piling up outside. Did you know that New Englanders pay 53 percent more for our electricity than the national average?

The culprit? Our state’s aging energy infrastructure. Experts estimate that this aging infrastructure cost New England an extra $7.5 billion during the past three years.

That’s the bad news. Now for the good news: We have the best minds and the best employees in the energy sector ready to go to work updating and modernizing our energy infrastructure to bring down costs for the average consumer.

All we need is a strong commitment from our elected leaders to support this important goal.

Our state is a net importer of energy. Quite simply, that means we use a lot more energy than we produce. That means we have to import our energy from other parts the country.

As with any commodity or service, the ability to cost-effectively import relies on the quality of the delivery mechanism. For example, importing consumer goods or produce requires good shipping channels, modern ports, quality roads and a strong railway system.

These days, many individuals and businesses even import knowledge and ideas. That, of course, requires a modern system of broadband across the globe, especially important in rural areas.

Here in New Hampshire (and New England, generally) our ability to efficiently import our energy requires a modern energy infrastructure.

This is probably what politicians have left festering for far too long. And it’s costing the good people of New Hampshire more and more of their hard earned money from their paychecks.

We have the best minds in the business ready to fix this problem. We have energy sector workers with an impeccable record for safety ready to fix this problem.

The time is now to put these resources and this human capital to work bringing New Hampshire’s energy infrastructure into the 21st century.

One of the primary common-sense investments we need is to build new pipelines or increase capacity on existing ones so that our state can utilize more clean burning, environmentally friendly natural gas.

The cold hard fact is that our state is currently using a lot of fuel oil right now to heat our homes (about half of New Hampshire households in 2013, according to some estimates.) Fuel oil is not nearly as clean-burning or efficient as natural gas.

President Obama’s own Environmental Protection Agency has said that natural gas has been a game-changer in terms of reducing pollution and carbon emissions.

It’s time to put this game-changer to work in our state.

Is natural gas the end-all/be-all of clean, renewable energy? Of course not. But it’s a great bridge for right now between oil and other renewables that aren’t quite ready to provide the stable, clean source of energy we need right now.

In other words, the activists who oppose new energy infrastructure are not only working to ensure higher energy costs for you. They’re also working to ensure that we continue to rely on energy sources that are less environmentally friendly.

Ironic, isn’t it?

In addition to the direct energy costs and environmental benefits, building out our energy infrastructure will also require new, good-paying, and many of them union, jobs.

And we know these New Hampshire workers will build infrastructure that is safe — continuing the successful track record of safety that we have seen in this country for decades. For example, did you know that there is currently 2.5 million miles worth of pipelines in this country that provide energy safely to more than 177 million Americans?

The bottom line is that we can no longer afford the status quo.

It’s time to tell the politicians to let the smart, hard-working, experienced employees of the energy sector go to work for you.

The time is now for common-sense investments in new energy infrastructure that will create jobs, lower our energy costs, and provide a safer, more environmentally friendly source of energy to heat and power New Hampshire homes and businesses.

Alex Koutroubas is executive director of the American Council of Engineering Companies of NH. 

Categories: Opinion