My Turn: New Hampshire’s environment and energy resources

Published: 5/6/2021 8:00:13 AM

While New Hampshire is not rich in home-grown energy resources, our environmental beauty and clean natural environment are admired around the country. How can our future energy needs as a state be met in harmony with our attractive natural environment while addressing the climate crisis?

In the 1999 book Natural Capitalism, Paul Hawken and others identified the enormous value in environmental services provided to all of us by our natural environment free of charge. If we had to pay nature’s services to clean up dirty air, filter out pollution from our soil, treat our water until it is naturally pure and filter out harmful solar effects, we would ring up quite a sizable bill. 

However, nature can only provide such services as long as its cleanup capacity is not overwhelmed by too great a burden imposed by pollution and other environmental stress. The world, our country and our state, however, has reached that breaking point. If we want to keep our natural environment and also provide energy for our needs, we must do so in a sustainable manner.

The good news is that New Hampshire does possess untapped energy resources that, if used wisely, can provide us with a sustainable future while still protecting our natural habitats. Unlike fossil fuels, renewable energy is free forever.

Once installed, renewable energy sources have only minimal costs. In addition, renewable energy resources do not pollute, will mitigate climate change effects and can provide us with energy in a sustainable process for many years to come. Solar, wind, hydro and biomass all represent energy resources that have not been provided enough support by state policymakers.

The opportunity to build a clean energy economy that will spark economic development and jobs across our state while reducing pollution and protecting our environment is so clearly within our grasp — if only state policies could be fully implemented that support the growing market demand for clean energy.

Alas, New Hampshire once again finds itself in the unenviable position of last place in the New England region in a variety of energy metrics, including energy efficiency and the deployment of solar installations. The consistent failure to invest in energy efficiency initiatives means that our neighboring states are significantly reducing their demand for energy, while New Hampshire leaves these savings on the table year after year. 

This policy failure has a measurable impact on the citizens of our state, as the percentage share of the transmission costs that we all share as consumers of the six-state New England electric grid is shifted to New Hampshire and away from other states, meaning more money out of the pockets of Granite State ratepayers.

Responsibly developed offshore wind is the single biggest lever we can pull to address the climate crisis and move New England off fossil fuels while also strengthening our local economy, protecting our ratepayers, creating good-paying jobs and improving public health by reducing carbon pollution. Other nations around the globe have proven that offshore wind can meet the need for clean and reliable energy generation while at the same time protecting biodiversity and ocean species. 

It is time for the United States to join this effort and recent announcements from the Biden Administration provide a hopeful roadmap as the goal to deploy 30 GW (30,000 MW) of offshore wind by 2030, representing an investment of $12 billion per year made in March. These investments are expected to generate enough power to meet the demand of more than 10 million homes while generating upwards of 44,000 jobs connected to offshore wind deployment.

The Gulf of Maine offers an unparalleled opportunity for offshore wind development that will benefit New Hampshire and the entire New England region. Wind resources in the area are highly reliable, and facilities such as the Pease Tradeport as well as possible future port development will drive economic activity while supporting new industry supply chains.

New Hampshire’s natural environment is a key economic driver as tourism represents the second-largest revenue source for the state. The development of needed new energy sources can and must co-exist with New Hampshire’s treasured environment, and renewable resources such as solar, wind, hydro and biomass meet this important test. It is well past time for state policymakers to support our residents by lowering energy costs, creating economic opportunities and jobs, and protecting the environment by investing in renewable energy sources.

(Rob Werner is New Hampshire State Director for League of Conservation Voters. Rep. Peter Somssich serves on the NH House Science, Technology & Energy Committee.)

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