My Turn: Renewable power law is good for New Hampshire’s economy
A Page 1 story in the Nov. 25 Sunday Monitor headlined “States’ energy laws targeted” describes how and why two organizations, the Heartland Institute and the American Legislative Exchange Council want regional portfolio standard laws repealed throughout the United States.
RPS laws, including the one adopted in 2007 by New Hampshire, require utilities to obtain a portion of their electricity from renewable power.
The Heartland Institute and ALEC argue that this requirement hurts a state’s economy.
Nothing could be further from the truth – especially in New Hampshire.
According to a study of the RPS completed in 2011 by the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission, the total cost of compliance was an average of 75 cents per household per month. This finding was based on three years of data (2008 through 2010) for an average annual statewide cost of $15,635,663.
What do New Hampshire and its electricity ratepayers get for the $15.6 million spent on New Hampshire’s RPS law?
This spring, in preparing for the debate on Senate Bill 218, which modified the RPS law, utility representatives and I found that New Hampshire and its communities received $111.1 million in direct benefits – taxes and economic activity – from its renewable energy projects in 2010.
This research included information from seven wood-to-energy power plants, one operating wind farm and 75 small hydroelectric power projects.
Of the $111.1 million, municipalities and the state received $7.8 million in taxes. These funds pay for schools, roads and other infrastructure.
These revenues include the utility property taxes paid in the towns where these power plants are located, the timber yield taxes paid by landowners whose trees are harvested, fuel taxes paid by the truckers delivering the wood chips and employment taxes paid by those who work at the power plants, and at the logging companies supplying the wood chips.
New Hampshire reaps another $103.3 million in energy dollars spent locally through wood chip purchases, payroll to New Hampshire citizens running the power plants and payments to local vendors, including contractors who produce wood chips that keep the power plants operating.
Here’s the breakdown on the $103.3 million:
∎ New Hampshire’s seven wood-to-energy plants spend $46.8 million purchasing locally grown and harvested wood chips. The plants employ 150 people with an annual payroll of $15.7 million and spend another $6 million with local vendors to maintain and keep their plants running.
∎ Conservatively loggers, truckers and sawmills that harvest and deliver the wood chips to these power plants employ another 300 people with an annual payroll of $18 million and spend an additional $9.3 million locally for parts and equipment.
∎ New Hampshire’s small hydroelectric power plants employ more than 50 people with an annual payroll of $3 million and spend another $1 million on goods and services from local businesses to maintain their dams and turbines.
∎ In 2010, New Hampshire’s one operating wind farm spent $3 million on goods and services from local business and had an annual payroll of $520,000.
We did not calculate the intangible, but very real, benefits New Hampshire gleans from cleaner air emissions, more diverse energy generation and reduced reliance on another state or nation for our power.
New Hampshire’s residents know what works best for them. They do not need advice from national organizations about how New Hampshire should manage renewable energy sources.
When you examine the facts and figures relating to New Hampshire’s RPS law and the renewable energy projects it supports, it is easy to see that it works it and it is worth keeping.
(Jasen Stock is executive director of the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association, a statewide trade group that represents all facets of the forest products industry including landowners, foresters, loggers, truckers, mill owners and biomass plants that produce electricity or heat.)