A new 10-year energy strategy calls on the state to modernize its electrical grid, increase energy efficiency and transportation choices, and diversify the fuel supply.
The state strategy, issued yesterday by the Office of Energy and Planning and an energy advisory council made up of New Hampshire legislators and appointed officials, doesn’t contain any mandates. But officials hope that lawmakers and state agencies will use the report as a resource when drafting future energy policy.
“We can’t make anybody do anything through a strategy,” said Meredith Hatfield, director of the energy office. “I’m hopeful that people will look at the recommendations and decide to take action to try to implement them.”
The strategy outlines four areas where the state can focus future energy initiatives – the electrical grid, energy efficiency, transportation and fuel supply – and offers several policy suggestions.
On energy efficiency, one of the cleanest energy options, the strategy suggests the state set a strict goal and improve consumer access to financing for efficiency projects. The strategy also recommends that the state update its electrical grid, so it can support new technologies.
“Grid modernization is something we should move on right away,” Hatfield said.
On the generation side, the strategy says New Hampshire imports most of its fossil fuels, and as a result is vulnerable to market and price changes. It recommends the state focus on diversifying its fuel sources and drawing more power from within the state.
According to the report, solar and wind power generation in New Hampshire have significant potential that is not fully used.
The state hosts several terrestrial wind projects, with roughly 171 megawatts of wind capacity overall. But, the state could potentially support 2,100 megawatts more and nearly 3,500 megawatts for offshore wind resources, according to the report.
New Hampshire is one of the only states among its neighbors without any utility-scale solar projects. And less than 9 megawatts of residential scale solar power is installed in the state, but New Hampshire could potentially support 600 megawatts, nearly 70 times what the state already has, the report says.
“I think there tends to be the feeling it’s not that sunny here,” Hatfield said. “But the resource potential study did show New Hampshire has pretty significant solar resources, there’s a real opportunity to do more.”
The strategy suggests making the financing options and tax exemptions for small-scale energy generation more accessible to consumers, and also strengthening the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards.
The strategy also makes a series of recommendations for transportation, including encouraging the adoption of electric vehicles by increasing the necessary charging infrastructure and expanding mass transit by increasing the use of local and regional bus lines, rail and ride-share programs.
“It’s really important to think of transportation as an energy issue,” Hatfield said. Electric vehicles may be “cleaner out of the tailpipe, but you have to think about the source of the energy.”
The state energy strategy is a product of a 2013 bill passed by the state Legislature that charged the groups to come up with a new 10-year energy strategy. Work on the report began last fall, and the group released a draft in May and heard public comment before releasing the final product this week.
This new report builds on the state’s previous 10-year energy strategy released in 2002. The two documents offer similar suggestions that include encouraging energy efficiency and purchasing energy efficient cars for the state’s fleet.
But since that report came out, a lot has changed in the energy world, Hatfield said. “There are so many more opportunities for customers to participate as energy producers – we’re more sophisticated how we manage energy use,” she said.
The new strategy, completed with input from Navigant Consulting, says some of its recommendations will require legislative action and others will need private market activity.
The strategy’s recommendations are very doable, said Christophe Courchesne, a senior attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation, in an email.
“New Hampshire should move quickly to make the policy and legislative changes needed for implementation,” he said. “As the Strategy notes, ‘the time for action is now.’ ”
In a statement yesterday, Gov. Maggie Hassan thanked the group for putting together the strategy.
“The New Hampshire Energy Strategy proposes concrete ways to help reduce energy costs, create jobs, protect our natural resources and improve reliability and diversity,” she said. “It will take continued bipartisan cooperation to implement the recommendations set out in the strategy, so that we can reduce costs and build a brighter energy future for our families, businesses and economy.”
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