Bioenergy, Hydropower, Solar, Storage, Wind Power

Clean Energy Issues Highlight “New Hampshire Energy Week”

At a breakfast during “NH Energy Week,” Governor Sununu said that it’s time to take the politics out of energy. His office is set to release a long-term energy plan in the next few weeks that lays out the direction that the state should be going regarding energy.

“What we do today should be different than what we did five years ago,” he said, adding that the “old school” way of pitting renewables against cost-savings is no longer valid.

“We can have our cake and eat it too,” he said. “That’s the vision we are trying to promote.”

A former environmental engineer and the youngest governor in the country, Sununu said he believes that it’s better to test systems now, when things are going well, as opposed to waiting until there is a crisis to make improvements, which is how governments usually function. He emphasized that the state is open to new ideas for energy.

“We can challenge ourselves and try something new.”

Sununu said that under his watch he has signed into law the largest subsidies for biomass and solar that the state has ever seen. In addition, the state plans to invest $4M in electric vehicle charging stations using 15 percent of the settlement it will receive from VW.

Sununu urged attendees at the breakfast to get involved or stay involved in the policymaking process.

“Solutions to New Hampshire’s problems are not within the four walls of the state house,” he said, adding, “We are the drivers, we have the tools that can be used to get what this state needs but at the end of the day it’s about you folks…individuals coming and sitting down at the governor’s office.”

Needs Improvement

After the governor concluded, various energy stakeholders took the stage at the breakfast to highlight what is going well, and what is not, in New Hampshire. Many highlighted better and more successful clean energy programs in neighboring states like Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and Connecticut.

Related: The 1,600-MW Solar Program for Massachusetts Really is SMART

Problem areas in New Hampshire continue to be high electricity prices for businesses, difficulty in keeping momentum flowing for energy efficiency/clean energy programs, and siting new renewable energy projects, particularly wind.

Kristin Bahny, with TRC Companies said that New Hampshire is a difficult state in which to make long-lasting improvements for energy efficiency, saying that in the past new state incentive programs would open and then immediately close. Bahny said that creating a dedicated NH Energy Office is a good idea.

Jack Kenworthy, who since 2008 has been trying to develop Antrim Wind, a 30-MW wind farm in southwest NH, faulted the onerous and ever-changing permitting process in New Hampshire.

Siting is “long, expensive and risky,” he said, adding that these are all detriments for investors looking to build wind power projects. Kenworthy believes the process should be “rigorous [but also] fair and consistent.”

Investors need to be able to determine, at the outset, whether or not their project meets siting criteria when they are at the early planning stage of their projects, he said.

Related: Siting a Wind Farm in the Most Challenging Place in the US

Overall, speakers pointed again and again to the attributes that make New Hampshire a great place to live.

Commissioner Taylor Caswell with the Department of Business and Economic Affairs said that New Hampshire is the fastest growing economy, has the lowest unemployment, the lowest poverty rate and consistently ranks as one of the best states in which to live. He said the state must address its energy costs and find innovative solutions. Caswell cited locally sourced power, more efficiency improvements, batteries and bio thermal fuel sources as areas on which to focus. In addition, he said there is a transition from industrial to digital energy solutions underway and that NH should embrace that.

The New Hampshire State Energy plan is set to be released in the coming weeks.