My Turn: On energy, we can’t simply keep saying ‘no’

Last modified: Friday, March 14, 2014
The residents of New Hampshire have some important decisions to make when it comes to satisfying our energy needs of today and addressing the state’s energy challenges of tomorrow. It is most important that we debate the facts, make informed decisions based on those facts and avoid being driven by emotion.

In a recent column, Laura Richardson of the Jordan Institute wrote, “If we can better manage energy use, we don’t need to expand energy capacity” (“Time to break out of New Hampshire’s energy efficiency polar vortex,” Monitor Forum, Jan. 25). I applaud the efforts of this nonprofit group to promote energy efficiency and conservation. Those are admirable goals, but our state and regional energy needs will continue to grow. We simply must plan now for those growing future needs.

We must also factor in the complications of climate change. With recent weather extremes becoming more and more the norm, our energy use has spiked accordingly. These energy spikes have brought immediate attention to our already stressed electrical grid. Energy suppliers have come dangerously close to not meeting our current demands. Recent headlines like “New England energy prices 40 percent above U.S. average,” “New England narrowly escapes power outages,” and “Natural gas volatility creating challenges at Gorham mill” reflect our energy supply shortages. And these shortages are having real-life consequences. Just recently many of our neighbors to the north lost their jobs as stressed energy supplies caused prices to skyrocket and resulted in business shutdowns.

To complicate the solution even further, for myriad political, environmental and infrastructure reasons, we stand to lose 8,000 megawatts of power from our New England grid by 2020. To put that into perspective, the Seabrook nuclear power plant generates 1,200 megawatts of power. At a time of steadily increasing demand on our energy grid, how do we replace those 8,000 megawatts and grow our available energy supplies to help reduce the cost of what is generally considered the most expensive electric rates in the country?

Well, we certainly don’t solve the problem by passing legislation that discourages or outright stops the development of new energy projects.

In business, you must consistently make good decisions today that will help you achieve success in the future. Similarly, New Hampshire is in the middle of a serious debate over whether or not to embrace wind and hydroelectric power projects. We must make decisions today that will enhance our national and global competitiveness for future generations – and a major part of that competitiveness is the future cost and reliability of energy.

We simply can’t keep saying “No” to all these projects. Doing nothing may be a short-term political victory for some, but in the very near future, these myopic decisions will ultimately end in crisis.

It’s time for leadership. It’s time we get serious about ensuring our energy supply is plentiful, reasonably priced and 100 percent reliable.

Any other scenario is unacceptable.

(Tony Giunta is founder and former president of the American Energy Independence Co. and the former mayor of Franklin.)