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State Sen. Kevin Avard: Energy diversity can help reduce rates



For the Monitor
Thursday, May 03, 2018

I am pleased to see the governor has released his 10-year State Energy Plan. As chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, I also have serious concerns about New Hampshire’s energy costs.

Last year the Senate worked hard to identify factors driving the price of electricity and, more specifically, cost drivers we can control, like repealing the state’s electricity consumption tax last session as part of the state budget.

Some of the largest cost drivers of our electricity bills are the regional transmission and local delivery cost of distribution levied by ISO New England, the region’s power grid.

I chaired a study committee last summer that looked specifically at the effects of these cost factors that were laid out in statute. The study made it clear that the largest cost escalators of our electricity bills are transmission and distribution costs. The Public Utilities Commission developed a guide that clearly shows the costs of transmission and distribution have skyrocketed by 515 percent and 72 percent, respectively, for residential ratepayers with more transmission projects planned for the future.

The question remains: How do we curtail these rising costs?

We belong to a regional market for electricity, therefore not all the decisions pertaining to energy are ours alone. However, we can control the percentage our state contributes to these rising costs by paying attention to our own energy needs and in-state energy generation.

New Hampshire has stable, reliable, renewable energy generators. We need to support these industries, not just for the in-state power they produce and the New Hampshire jobs and economic activity they create, but also for the level of stability they provide against rising transmission and distribution costs.

Simply put, if we turn our backs on small-scale energy production in our own state, we become more reliant on out-of-state and even out-of-country energy production, meaning more transmission upgrades to bring that power into New Hampshire. These are much higher costs than supporting our own local industries. Small-scale energy producers also play a role in stabilizing the regional grid as ISO-NE continues to warn of our over-reliance on natural gas-fired generation and the looming closure of several large power plants.

In a recent Washington Examiner report, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission stated that New England’s predicament (over-reliance on natural gas and power plant closures) is a “horror show” that will continue to create pricing spikes and weaken reliability in the region.

To combat this issue, we must recommit ourselves as a state and as a region to supporting fuel diversity. We need to look closely at our energy infrastructure in New Hampshire. I agree with Gov. Chris Sununu, who has noted that clean technology plays an important role in our energy future. I also believe that supporting our in-state biomass, small hydro, waste to energy and solar industries, which are bolstered in current legislation, including Senate Bills 365, 446 and 577, can curtail increasing costs for New Hampshire.

(Sen. Kevin Avard, a Nashua Republican, represents District 12. He serves as chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.)