Charlie Niebling: State’s energy future is at stake

For the Monitor
Published: 9/11/2018 12:09:47 AM

Much has been written about Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto of two renewable energy bills and the statewide grassroots campaign to persuade lawmakers to override these vetoes on Sept. 13.

Largely overlooked in this debate is discussion about the starkly different futures that the governor and supporters of these renewable energy policies envision for New Hampshire.

On the one hand, Sununu favors policies that consign our state to continued reliance on imported fossil fuels, whether used to produce electricity (coal, oil and natural gas), for heating (oil, propane and natural gas) or transportation (gasoline and diesel fuel). He favors a future in which New Hampshire remains largely dependent on energy produced in other regions of the country, or other countries, and over which we have no control of either cost or supply.

His myopic views have us continuing to export some $3 to $4 billion per year of wealth from our economy to support this import dependence. This hemorrhage of wealth represents about 4 percent of N.H.’s gross domestic product, and does little to support our long-term economic well-being. He focuses solely on short-term cost as the only metric of consequence.

On the other hand, supporters of these policies favor a future in which the Granite State seizes control of our energy self-determination. We imagine a future where we retain the majority of wealth we devote to energy in our state economy. We do this by reducing our energy demand through efficiency and conservation investments, and by displacing much of our dependence on imported fossil fuels through energy we produce and control here at home: wind, solar, hydro and sustainably sourced biomass. In our future, these billions of dollars can multiply many times over here at home, generating lasting local value.

The debate over Senate bills 365 and 446 is fundamentally about which future we want for New Hampshire. The well-documented economic benefits of continued operation of the state’s biomass fueled power plants (SB 365) creates tremendous value, and helps us preserve some measure of energy self-determination. The increase in net-metering cap for renewable electric generation (SB 446) will spur millions in new private investment in clean energy here at home, and create value, wealth and jobs for communities across the state.

The Legislature clearly agreed with the long-term value proposition in Senate bills 365 and 446 by strongly bipartisan votes. I am confident they will reaffirm their commitment to this future by overriding the ill-conceived vetoes of these bills.

When it comes to New Hampshire’ energy future, sadly our governor sees the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

(Charlie Niebling lives in Boscawen.)

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