NH utilities file new energy efficiency plans after controversy

By  MARA HOPLAMAZIAN 

New Hampshire Public Radio

Published: 07-06-2023 1:00 PM

New Hampshire utility companies have submitted their latest three-year plan for energy efficiency programs, after years of conflict among state leaders over who should pay for energy efficiency and how those programs should work.

The utilities say the new plan, which covers 2024 to 2026, will save customers $675 million, and prevent two million tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

Utilities file this energy efficiency plan every three years, showing how they will manage programs that help reduce the amount of electricity and fossil fuels the state uses.

In 2021, state regulators denied the plan they filed, saying it was too expensive to utility ratepayers. Ratepayers pay a few dollars a month into a fund for energy efficiency programs through a charge on their energy bills.

State lawmakers then took over, setting the rates that fund energy efficiency at their 2020 levels for the foreseeable future, with a modest yearly increase to keep up with inflation. That was a reversal from the state’s energy efficiency resource standard, or EERS, used for the 2018-2020 energy efficiency plans.

The purpose of the EERS was to achieve all cost-effective energy efficiency measures. Now, with the budget set by the legislature, utilities must achieve what energy efficiency is possible within that limit.

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A plan for 2022 and 2023 was approved under the new legislation, but the plan filed Friday with the Public Utilities Commission is the first full three-year plan under the law.

Chris Skoglund, director of energy transition for Clean Energy New Hampshire, says he’s hopeful the new plans will provide more certainty for energy efficiency programs. But things have changed since the 2021 plans were denied.

“We've seen a significant reduction in funding and aspiration,” he said.

The new plan includes about two thirds of the electricity savings proposed in 2020. In 2020, the plan proposed by the utilities, and denied by state regulators, aimed to reduce electricity use by 4.5% between 2021 and 2023, and natural gas by 2.8%. The 2024-2026 plan filed Friday aims to reduce electricity use by 2.8% over the upcoming three years, and natural gas by 2%.

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.

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