Sen. Jeanne Shaheen: Partisan politics compromise the bipartisan consensus around energy efficiency

For the Monitor
Published: 12/16/2021 6:30:39 AM
Modified: 12/16/2021 6:30:05 AM

While it doesn’t always make the front page news, Democrats and Republicans in Congress have long partnered on energy efficiency for the benefit of our environment and our pocketbooks.

The facts don’t lie: smart investments in energy efficiency pay for themselves by helping to lower energy bills while also reducing harmful emissions and making buildings more comfortable places to live and work.

For years, I’ve led efforts with Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, to pass the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, which would improve energy efficiency in three key areas: buildings, industry and the federal government. I’m proud to share that through our bipartisan partnership most of the provisions from our bill have become law, including in the bipartisan infrastructure bill that was recently signed by President Biden.

The bipartisan consensus around energy efficiency is why I found it so baffling that New Hampshire’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) chose to reject a widely supported and robust energy efficiency plan that funds NHSaves, an award-winning energy efficiency program with a proven track record in New Hampshire.

It’s shameful that the State’s partisan politics are dismantling this successful program. Deviating from more than a decade of precedent in the State, the PUC recently voted not only to reject a broadly supported plan for the next three years but also to slash existing funding sources for NHSaves.

NHSaves provides families with energy audits, rebates and educational programs that go a long way for Granite Staters to weatherize their homes and purchase energy-efficient appliances. The program also helps businesses, industry and municipalities reduce their operating costs and increase productivity.

Over the last three years or so, NHSaves supported $1.5 million home energy efficiency projects and nearly 10,000 businesses, generating an estimated $3.37 in benefits for every dollar invested. The PUC’s decision is rooted in politics, not evidence, is opposed by industry and efficiency advocates alike, and it hurts Granite Staters in the process.

Energy efficiency is the fastest, cheapest way to meet our economy’s energy needs. Energy efficiency lowers the demand for electricity, which is especially important for reducing peak demand among consumers as our coldest months settle in. Energy efficiency doesn’t just help those who undertake the projects, it helps us all.

In addition, energy efficiency is a flourishing economic sector and job creator, which is more important today as we fight our way back from the financial impact of the pandemic. New Hampshire is already feeling the effects of the PUC’s disastrous decision, which canceled projects in our State putting Granite State independent contractors suddenly out of work. The well-being of our families and businesses should always supersede partisan politics, and the PUC’s unwarranted and ill-conceived decision underscores that point.

The bipartisan infrastructure law includes $6 billion for energy efficiency programs like weatherization, supporting the implementation of building energy codes. Most critically, it is a shining example of what common ground looks like between Democrats and Republicans on policies that benefit our economy and prioritize sustainability.

It also epitomizes how out-of-step New Hampshire Republicans are with the rest of their party and the majority of Americans. NHSaves has always been and should continue to be a partner in these types of historic investments that will help New Hampshire families keep more money in the bank, allow businesses to participate in this booming industry and empower our State to take a simple, meaningful step forward in finding sustainable solutions.

The PUC’s decision is cutting off crucial economic and environmental opportunities for our residents and communities. It should be reconsidered or swiftly overturned.

(Jeanne Shaheen is New Hampshire’s senior U.S. senator.)

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