Letter: Beyond poles and wires

Published: 12/6/2018 8:40:32 AM

Thank you for David Brooks’s excellent story about Maine’s experiment with saving electric ratepayers money by relying on alternatives to old-fashioned investments in poles and wires (“Reinventing the power grid in coastal Maine – well, sort of,” Monitor front page, Dec. 4). But I respectfully disagree with Maine energy entrepreneur Rich Silkman, who said: “The problem is that there’s no advocate for non-wires alternatives, no entity that has a level of expertise that a utility does in looking at these broader solutions.”

Maybe in Maine, but not in New Hampshire. We at the Office of the Consumer Advocate have made non-wires alternatives (NWAs) a priority in our advocacy at the Public Utilities Commission.

We recently hired one of the nation’s top NWA experts – Chris Nemy of the Energy Futures Group – to file testimony advocating for NWA pilot programs as part of ratepayer-funded energy efficiency. The utilities persuaded the PUC to declare: “great idea, wrong docket.” That’s a venerable trick in the utility play book.

Liberty Utilities recently sought to conduct an NWA experiment in Lebanon, as a part of its proposal to combine residential batteries and time-varying rates. The staff of the PUC shot down that idea.

We intend to press on with this issue and have recently seen some encouraging signs that Eversource, like Liberty, is interested in NWAs. I hope so, because Brooks said it perfectly in his story: NWAs are “exactly the kind of process that needs to happen if we’re going to bring electricity production into the 21st century.”



(The writer is New Hampshire’s consumer advocate.)

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