My Turn: Three bad bills for our energy future

For the Monitor
Monday, January 08, 2018

One of the most promising things Gov. Chris Sununu has done is to appoint the Millennial Advisory Council.

New Hampshire has an aging population and, while our Legislature may be admirably citizen volunteer, they are mostly retirees. Our legislation and its spending priorities tend to reflect the demographics of our lawmakers. Of course, there are exceptions, but I appreciate the governor being willing to explicitly engage a younger generation in tackling some of New Hampshire’s challenges.

I wondered who the governor would appoint and expected the council to be conservative and likely, political. I wasn’t very optimistic that they would be clear on the climate and energy challenges facing the state. I worried that if they didn’t speak up about the economic opportunities for the state in pursuing clean tech, we’d probably lose another generation before the state would become a competitor in the green energy economy.

Boy, was I surprised and impressed by their first annual report.

I hope every state representative makes the time to read the “Governor’s Millennial Advisory Council’s 2017 Annual Report” before they vote on House bills 592, 114 and 317 on Tuesday.

On page 15, in the section under “Environment,” the report says: “Business & Jobs: The number of jobs in the renewable energy sector – such as solar photovoltaic installer, wind turbine service technician, clean car engineer and more – is increasing at an incredible rate. According to a recent study by the U.S. Department of Energy, 6.4 million Americans currently work in the energy sector, with 300,000 jobs added in 2016 alone. Solar photovoltaic installers and wind turbine technicians are the fastest growing occupations in the United States.”

And on page 16: “The clean tech business sector – innovative technologies, services and products that enhance environmental performance in the energy, construction, transportation, utility and waste industries – is estimated to become a $5 trillion business by the mid-2020s. New Hampshire today has at least 13,000 workers employed due to clean tech, and the average annual wage in a clean-tech-associated job is likely to be about 50 percent higher than the state average annual wage (NH Cleantech Market Report). If we want to foster higher-paying jobs in the state that attract talented young professionals, then we must foster these innovative industries and the clean tech sector. We cannot afford to cut, undo or destabilize any programs or policies that incentivize investments and development in clean energy. ”

Those three bills do precisely what the council advises against. HB 592 would zero out the energy efficiency funding from RGGI proceeds. HB 114 would freeze the Renewable Portfolio Standard at 17 percent of generation instead of the 25 percent by 2025 committed to in the State Energy Strategy. HB 317 would make the Systems Benefit Charge a political football, instead of leaving it in the hands of rate making at the Public Utilities Commission.

I urge the Governor’s Millennial Advisory Council to demand more. They should be asking how it is that New Hampshire ranks No. 21 nationally for energy efficiency, while four of our New England neighbors rank in the top 10. Even Maine ranks No. 13.

It’s time our legislators realize that the future is calling, and passing those three bills signals a disconnect.

(Patricia A. Martin lives in Rindge.)