Renewable energy is in everyone’s interest
Business, residential users both benefit
In a recent column the New England Ratepayers Association’s Marc Brown incorrectly claims that ratepayers are being forced to buy expensive electricity under the state’s renewable portfolio standard when cheaper alternatives exist, and at no value to us (“Green energy hits ratepayers’ pockets hard,” Monitor Forum, March 28).
Brown’s claim was refuted when New Hampshire undertook serious economic evaluations and bipartisan collaboration before concluding that employing a renewable portfolio standard is indeed in the best interests of ratepayers and the public good.
Building renewable energy resources has enormous value to each and every ratepayer, whether you pay a single residential bill or your business pays large industrial electricity bills at multiple locations. Renewable energy generation, such as wind or solar electricity, has zero fuel costs once the system has been built; no fuel costs mean low operating costs, which allow these systems to bid into the wholesale electricity market at lower prices, which in turn displaces generation that requires costly fossil-fuels to run and therefore have much higher operating costs. The net effect is that renewable energy resources can lower the overall wholesale cost for everyone and therefore lower the retail electricity price.
On average, the renewable portfolio standard cost ratepayers $0.0015 per kilowatt-hour during the past three years. For a typical home using about 550 kilowatt-hours per month, that is 82 cents per month. This is hardly the billions of dollars in subsidies that Brown claims. In fact, billions of dollars do get spent; New Hampshire businesses and citizens spend approximately $6 billion each year on energy, the vast majority of which is for oil, gas and coal. These billions of dollars immediately leave our New Hampshire economy, leaving all of us vulnerable to ever-increasing and volatile non-renewable energy sources.
Claiming that renewable resources such as solar and wind are less reliable than non-renewable sources of electricity and have insurmountable negative environmental effects is also false. Many studies have shown that we can displace the majority of fossil-fuel fired electricity with a mix of renewable resources supported by minimal natural gas and hydro-electric plants that are used to balance demand and supply during times of no wind or no sun. As for the environmental impacts of manufacturing solar panels, that is a one-time impact, followed by a near-lifetime of waste-free electricity. By contrast, the waste from a coal plant continues for the entire lifetime of the plant, from the mining of the coal, the pollutants spewed into our air, to the disposal of the toxic ash that lingers after combustion.
Lastly, we cannot abdicate leadership on clean energy simply because China and India are increasing their fossil-fuel use. The United States still uses 20 percent of the world’s oil and has 3 percent of its population, and has long been a leader in the use of fossil-fuel energy to become one of the wealthiest nations in the world, at no small cost. In the past several years of recession, the renewable energy sector has been one of the few sectors to grow and produce good jobs in our state and region.
Having a renewable energy portfolio is just one of many innovative solutions that states have employed to create value for all businesses and citizens. Ratepayers know that it is not cheaper to save 82 cents now just to send billions of dollars out of New Hampshire into a rising and volatile global energy market next year. We can continue our legacy of innovation to lead the world in the transition to clean, renewable energy, and we can do this right here in New Hampshire.
(Kate Epsen lives in Salisbury.)