When I was first elected to the Legislature in 2010, the biggest concern of the business community was high energy costs. Companies could relocate to Pennsylvania where, due to abundant supplies of natural gas, electric costs were substantially lower, about 12.5 cents per kWh. Right now NH electricity costs about 20 cents/kWh. Pretty much the same in the rest of New England. The problem has not been solved, but has been made worse.
The reason the problem has not been solved is political. Environmental groups, such as the one featured in Sunday’s paper, claim that more underground natural gas pipelines from Pennsylvania, which would import low cost energy, will somehow spoil the environment, even though they can’t be seen and are exceptionally safe. Wouldn’t you rather have gas piped into your home or business, instead of paying much more to have big trucks carrying propane or kerosene running down your city streets?
Then we have Northern Pass. Back in 2011, I took a field trip to the North Country to look at power sources. First stop was a hydro plant in Berlin. Nobody was in the plant, it was operated and monitored remotely. Source of the energy was rain falling from the sky. It all looked pretty low cost to me.
While standing on the dam, I looked up at the nearby ridge line to see a bunch of supersized windmills flickering in the distance. I didn’t think that those wind turbines added much to the environmental appeal of our beautiful wilderness. I looked for power lines that were below the mountain tops, but they were hard to find, the tree tops seemed to cover everything, including cuts for the nearby roads.
Then I learned that a waiver is needed to avoid sanctions for chopping up migrating birds, and huge subsidizes are required as wind turbines are not economical. I guess they have to be placed the wilderness, because they are also annoyingly noisy to the neighbors.
Something didn’t make sense. It still doesn’t make sense. Why is taking hydro power from Quebec bad, and subsidizing inefficient and environmentally challenging power sources good?
Our neighboring states have strict regulations requiring renewable energy, so they like the idea of hydro power, and they’re willing to pay NH for the privilege of building the infrastructure, and the property taxes for maintaining it. Oh, and we get a chunk of that low-cost power ourselves. Sounds like a bunch of good jobs during the construction phase, and tax relief for the participating towns for allowing something to be mostly buried underground, and entirely buried in the North Country.
If our neighboring states were really smart, they would also approve additional gas pipelines through New York and into PA, but NY doesn’t play nice, even though they themselves have the Utica Shale, huge deposits of natural gas that they refuse to tap, which stretches all the way into Canada.
If we were really smart, we would do something similar, like allowing our electric companies to contract for pipeline capacity. Then they could generate power from cheap summer gas for air conditioning, and sell the rest of the gas to others for heating during the winter.
But I guess our current Legislature and certain regulatory bodies would rather bow to radical environmentalists instead of looking to save money for the folks, and the businesses that hire them.
Bill Ohm served three terms in the NH House, most recently as Deputy Majority Whip. He was recently a candidate for Alderman in Nashua’s Ward 9.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding