New Hampshire Bill for Blackout Protection

A state senator and two public advocacy groups said that legislation already under consideration in the state Senate would help shield New Hampshire from the kind of massive power failure that paralyzed the northeastern United States and parts of Canada last week.

Concord, New Hampshire – August 21, 2003 [] New Hampshire State Senator Clifton Below is the lead sponsor of legislation that would relieve pressure on the strained and aging electricity grid by concentrating on using less power. The bill would ensure that a handful of ordinary products sold in New Hampshire meet minimum energy efficiency standards that would be phased in over the next few years. “Optimizing our energy efficiency is a cost-effective way to increase our productivity and our quality of life,” Below said, “while helping to reduce the growing strains on our electricity transmission system.” The New Hampshire Senate delayed action on New Hampshire Senate Bill 105 (SB 105) this spring, promising to revisit the bill when the Legislature resumes in January. Josh Irwin from the New Hampshire Public Interest Research Group (NHPIRG) said the bill was one of the easiest and cheapest ways to help ease the load on the grid and to help avoid cascading blackouts in the future. He said that by 2010 the bill would conserve enough energy in New Hampshire every year to power about 50,000 households. “It’s obvious that we need to rethink how we move electricity around the nation and to shift away from a heavy reliance on a cumbersome and centralized power system and on dirty fossil fuels and nuclear power plants,” Irwin said. “But to overlook the fact that right now we’ve got the technology to use less power in the first place is to ignore one of the best tools in the toolbox.” SB 105 would set minimum efficiency standards for a handful of mainly commercial appliances, including washing machines, torchier lamps, and ceiling fans. Customers who purchased the appliances identified in the legislation would benefit directly by saving money on their electricity bills. According to NHPIRG, cutting into the demand for power from the electricity grid would also mean less pollution from coal and oil fired power plants, which is pollution that triggers asthma attacks and contributes to summer days carrying smog warnings. David Marshall, counsel to Environment Northeast, a regional nonprofit environmental organization, noted that officials are not yet sure precisely what caused the blackout. “One thing is clear,” Marshall said. “Reducing demand for electricity, especially during periods of peak usage, would help prevent future blackouts and other system reliability problems. Energy codes that require certain equipment to meet minimum but attainable standards of efficiency are one way of reducing demand. Another way is to encourage the development of decentralized, smaller and renewable power sources such as fuel cells and solar devices.”