Our Turn: Bipartisan compromise needed on energy efficiency

For the Monitor
Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Over the past couple of weeks, thousands across New Hampshire struggled to heat their homes and small businesses. From the senior on a fixed income of Social Security in Lancaster, to the small business owner in Henniker, to the family in manufactured housing in East Concord, affording energy is often an ongoing battle, especially in the deep winter. They expect and they deserve bipartisan compromise and problem-solving on energy.

There are more than 10,000 low-income Granite State households on a waiting list for energy efficiency and weatherization services, much needed help to allow them to afford to heat their homes and to afford basic necessities like medicine and food. Right now, about 100 low-income households are helped each year with support from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. That support from RGGI would go away under House Bill 592. Under House Bill 559, a bipartisan compromise, close to 400 more low-income households would be supported each year from RGGI.

HB 559 is the product of years of work and compromise. Its bipartisan legislation supported by stakeholders ranging from the Business and Industry Association to the New Hampshire Municipal Association to low-income, senior citizen and public health advocates. It would not just help families and seniors afford heat across New Hampshire, it would create about $40 million in new lifetime energy savings each year helping all ratepayers, it would directly create at least 90 full-time jobs in New Hampshire’s emerging energy sector, and it would help slash municipal energy bills, lowering property taxes for businesses and homeowners. In short, HB 559 makes good fiscal and economic sense.

And, it’s just good common sense: the cheapest unit of energy is the one you don’t use. That’s why New Hampshire’s energy efficiency programs are so important, with report after report after report showing they are cost-effective and good for the economy. Three pieces of legislation in the New Hampshire House deal with energy efficiency today: HB 592, HB 371 and HB 559. HB 592 and HB 371 are direct, ideological attacks on energy efficiency. HB 559 is the compromise, bipartisan bill on energy efficiency.

As policy-makers, we believe we were elected to put compromise and problem-solving above ideology. That’s what we’ve done on House Bill 559. Today, the New Hampshire House can choose an uncompromising ideology, or it can go with the bipartisan, common-sense compromise. We are hopeful the House will do the latter. Our constituents demand no less, and our energy and economic future depend on it.

(Herb Richardson is a Republican state representative from Lancaster. Dan Feltes is a Democratic state senator from Concord. Rep. Richardson and Sen. Feltes are co-sponsors of HB 559. They were also co-sponsors of Senate Bill 492 from 2016, an earlier version of HB 559.)