CONCORD – The House voted Wednesday to do away with energy efficiency programs for municipalities and the poor, and instead return the money to electric customers.
House Bill 208 originally would have repealed the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative program, but was changed by the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee to retain the emissions reduction program, but use all the money generated by emission allowance auctions as rebates to electric customers.
Currently, 80 percent of the estimated $16 million generated by the auctions this year goes to ratepayers while the remaining 20 percent to energy efficiency programs for the poor and municipalities.
The House voted down an attempt to retain the current allocation, 197-158, before approving the bill, 201-154.
Sending all the money back to electric customers would prevent everyone from saving on their energy costs, said former committee chairman Nadia Kaen, D-Lee.
She and others argued the state could leave the program, but would continue to pay added costs and fail to reap the economic benefits. They said the program has been tremendously successful, saving electric customers money, reducing air emissions while creating jobs through the energy efficiency programs. And they said the municipal efficiency programs save money for property taxpayers, and with the low-income projects help reduce the need to build new power plants, which will increase electric rates.
“Energy efficiency is the lowest cost and most beneficial action we can take,” said Rep. Robert Backus, D-Manchester, “because we do not need to build new power plants.”
He noted the only people in favor of repealing the program at the public hearing was the sponsor of the bill, and the Koch brothers’ paid representative in New Hampshire.
But proponents of sending all the money to customers said people should be able to choose how to spend the money and government should not be picking winners and losers.
“RGGI amounts to a tax on every kilowatt hour you buy. The government will take more of your hard-earned money in a hidden tax,” said Rep. Michael Vose, R-Epping. “There are many other sources for energy efficiency efforts besides RGGI.”
Others argued returning the money to ratepayers will be a step in the right direction of lowering electric rates, which are some of the highest in the nation.
“Electric costs are a major impediment to economic growth in New Hampshire,” said House Majority Leader Jack Flanagan, R-Brookline. He said the bill is also a meaningful step toward controlling and reducing energy costs in the state.
The bill now goes to the Senate.
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