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Energy & the Environment

Thoughtful environmental and energy policy matters in every state, but especially so in New Hampshire, where high energy costs are a threat, and a commitment to environmental protection is central to our economy and quality of life.

In terms of energy policy, there are four primary questions I seek to answer:

1) How can we maximize energy conservation? The cheapest unit of energy is the one that is not used, and as a small state in a regional power pool (only about 10% of energy consumption in New England comes from New Hampshire), we have limited ability to impact the amount or composition of our energy mix in the region. We have much greater ability to impact our demand for electricity, by improving energy efficiency. It’s the easiest way to lower energy costs for residents and businesses.

2) How do we maximize renewable energy, particularly NH-centric renewables? This question deals with two priorities. First, the more we develop domestic energy capacity, the less vulnerable residents and businesses will be to regional or global markets. Second, the positive impacts on the environment are considerable. We don’t have a lot of direct say on fracking, for example, but as we do our part to reduce dependence on environmentally-unfriendly sources, we can be a part of changing the demand for those energy sources.

3) How can we diversify our sources of energy? This protects our residents and businesses from price shocks that occur if we overrely on any one energy source. It can also play a role in encouraging entrepreneurship in more nascent energy-related industries here in New Hampshire (such as battery or solar panel technology).

4) How do we provide relief for ratepayers, be they residential or commercial? Having some of America’s highest energy costs are obviously a drag in attracting and retaining energy-intense businesses to New Hampshire. High energy costs also take a disproportionate bite out of lower-income residents.

Keeping these questions in mind, there are several policies which can help us answer these questions in a way that helps make New Hampshire the best state in America to start a family, and start a business, including:

1) Modernizing our electric grid to lower energy costs, and maximize the use of local renewables. One of the challenges most renewables face is that, compared to nuclear or natural gas, they are intermittent. They have high peaks, but low valleys, and we are not able to store the electricity in a way that would allow them to be used efficiently in our current, antiquated electric grid. This makes it difficult for solar or wind to plug into the grid, and sunny or windy days produce significant electricity that goes unused. Improving our grid is arguably the best investment we can make to accelerate the economics and use of small-scale renewables here in New Hampshire. We have plenty of capacity without new large-scale supply like Northern Pass or the NED pipeline if we modernize our technology. We can use market incentives to smooth out demand, cutting electric rates 15% or more. And we can encourage energy-related entrepreneurs to see New Hampshire as a leading state to start a business, or invest in R&D.

2) Increasing funding, awareness, and accessibility to energy efficiency programs. New Hampshire has several programs designed to encourage residents and businesses to invest in energy efficiency. Two of those programs are targeted primarily for lower-income residents, but are limited. An additional program has no income guidelines, but typically involves the homeowner paying 50% of the cost of the efficiency work done. For lower-income residents, this remains elusive, however, as even half the cost of a meaningful project could be thousands of dollars. This unintentionally widens the gap between the “haves” and “have nots” – those with liquidity get to lower their energy costs, while those without liquidity are unable to do so. New Hampshire is in the minority of states that do not provide any general fund dollars toward consumer energy efficiency programs, and I believe accelerating such projects is among the smartest ways to lower energy use and costs. It’s good for the environment, good for our economy, good for reducing energy costs, and good for chipping away at one of America’s greatest threats – widening wealth inequality.

3) Opposition to Northern Pass. I am the only candidate for Governor who is 100% opposed to Northern Pass, as is detailed in another section of our “Issues” pages. In short, the environmental impact of the construction and the lines would be detrimental to our state. Even buried, there are environmental concerns, and in either case, there is scant evidence that New Hampshire ratepayers would be beneficiaries. And that’s before considering the effect of squashing interest and demand for New Hampshire-based renewables and investments in efficiency. As I often say, it is a energy superhighway with no exit ramps in New Hampshire.