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Nancy Stiles: Energy-efficiency funds important for schools, towns, state’s 10-year strategy



For the Monitor
Wednesday, April 25, 2018

This month, Gov. Chris Sununu released a 10-year state energy strategy for New Hampshire.

The report admits that energy efficiency in New Hampshire remains modest, yet emphasizes “energy efficiency is often the cheapest and cleanest energy resource. Investing in efficiency boosts the state’s economy by creating jobs and reducing energy costs for consumers and businesses. New Hampshire should prioritize capturing more efficiency in all sectors, including buildings, manufacturing and transportation.”

The governor’s report also states that “efficiency benefits more than just those customers who participate in efficiency programs. Reducing our energy use, especially during expensive peak times, such as the hottest and coldest days of the year, saves money for everyone on our energy systems.

“The state should continue to coordinate and support energy efficiency programming, such as weatherization, to achieve cost-effective savings.”

The New Hampshire state Senate will have an opportunity to make a major investment in New Hampshire’s public schools and local communities. The decision won’t cost taxpayers a dime.

In fact, it will save money almost immediately.

The full Senate will soon vote on legislation that would ensure money through the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative serves its intended purpose: paying for energy efficiency programs to reduce energy costs for low-income households and local governments. In the aftermath of a tie vote in committee, the full Senate has the opportunity to vote and pass House Bill 559 as amended by the N.H. House. Then our elected officials will direct critical funds to where they can serve the most people and meet the greatest need – and in the process save money for local taxpayers.

The RGGI program is a model of bipartisan energy stewardship, enabling states throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic to work together to reduce carbon emissions, auction off carbon allowances and invest the auction proceeds in energy efficiency projects to reduce waste and lower energy costs. Between 2008 and 2015, New Hampshire generated $100.7 million through the compact, but since the program started only a small portion went to energy-efficiency projects, its intended use. Since 2013, when limited energy-efficiency funds were made available to our N.H. municipalities and school districts, communities have combined these efficiency funds with local dollars and completed 707 energy-efficiency projects in 192 different communities. This has also provided cost savings to their community members – yet there is more that must be done and demand remains strong.

School building aid has not been available for the last several years. Investing energy-efficiency funds in our schools has been especially effective in reducing energy costs. Since 2016, we have weatherized and improved energy efficiency at 149 schools – from Amherst to Salem to Rye, and many other schools throughout the state. Investments in energy-efficiency projects have provided brighter and warmer classrooms in Belmont, placed more cost-effective heating and cooling systems in Langdon, and upgraded aging school buildings in Franklin.

As a former school nutrition director and state senator, I’m extremely proud that New Hampshire is on its way to dedicating increased RGGI revenues to improving our state’s educational facilities by ensuring the expansion of energy-efficiency funds toward our public institutions and buildings. New Hampshire can again lead by example. By focusing that investment toward schools, we are ensuring that the next generation grows up experiencing the benefits of energy planning first-hand.

New Hampshire has an opportunity to ensure that the revenues that the state receives from participating in the RGGI program are used wisely and for the benefit of our citizens, making smart investments that will deliver real benefits to our communities and save money for local taxpayers.

New Hampshire schools, local governments, taxpayers and 400 additional low-income households will all be eligible to benefit from these energy-efficiency funds.

Passage of HB 559 on the Senate floor is essential. Talk with your senator today.

(Nancy Stiles, a Republican, represented 24th District in the New Hampshire Senate from 2010 to 2016.)