Two bills that anticipate offshore wind in New Hampshire’s future sailed through hearings in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, gaining the full support of the committee on Tuesday.
After a state mandate on purchasing wind energy proved too controversial to pass last session, Sen. David Watters, a Dover Democrat, came back with more modest proposals: one setting the stage for New Hampshire to regulate offshore wind projects that impact state businesses and the environment, and another establishing criteria that the Public Utilities Commission needs to account for when utilities opt to purchase offshore wind.
Both the Department of Environmental Services and the Department of Energy supported the first proposal, which would give New Hampshire a seat at the table for new offshore wind projects coming to nearby waters.
Mark Sanborn, deputy commissioner of DES, told the panel that Senate Bill 268 is about protecting New Hampshire’s interests. “Whether you fully support the idea of New Hampshire moving forward with offshore wind, whether you’re just trying to figure it out, or whether you already have concerns with it, this bill is something you should still support,” he said.
While the state has jurisdiction only over waters within three miles of the coast, this bill would lay the groundwork for the state to have a say in what happens as far as 200 miles out, where offshore wind projects may be developed. Watters said it would allow the state to look out for the interests of fisheries and act proactively on environmental issues.
Senate Bill 440 also passed the Senate committee with unanimous support. The proposal would instruct the Public Utilities Commission on which factors it should consider when weighing power purchase agreements for offshore wind. The criteria would include elements such as cost-effectiveness and whether the purchase would increase reliability, as well as environmental and economic considerations. The work would fall to the Office of Offshore Wind, comprising one post that has been vacant since September.
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