Renewable Energy

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

New Hampshire’s timber industry scored a major victory today as legislators narrowly voted to overturn Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto of a bill subsidizing biomass plants.

But lawmakers fell just short of overturning another energy veto that had become intertwined with the biomass bill – one subsidizing net metering.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

State legislators vote Thursday on whether to override two controversial vetoes of bills about energy.

One would subsidize biomass power plants. The other would expand net metering in New Hampshire.

Governor Chris Sununu says both bills would cost residents and businesses too much.

But supporters from the state’s established timber industry and its newer renewable energy sector disagree.

The Debate Over N.H.'s Biomass Industry

Sep 7, 2018

We unravel the complicated debate over N.H.'s biomass industry.  This spring, the governor vetoed two energy-related bills designed to subsidize the biomass industry and expand the state's net metering program.  The governor says the bills would inflate already-high electric rates while supporters argue subsidies are crucial for the forest industry and renewable energy.  The veto created an uproar and an effort is underway to overturn the vetoes on Sept. 13, the legislative "Veto Day." 

GUESTS:

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Hundreds of people from the timber and renewable energy industries crowded the New Hampshire State House lawn Thursday, rallying for legislators to overturn two vetoes they say could put them out of business.

Julian- / Flickr Creative Commons

The Portsmouth City Council voted Tuesday night to expand a tax exemption for home solar panels.

They passed a resolution extending the city’s current exemption to solar arrays of any age, and removing caps on valuations and how long exemptions last.

The value of the panels will be added to homeowners’ property assessment, then immediately deducted, which officials say means the change won't have a big effect on city revenues or residents' tax bills.

NHPR File Photo

Energy has become a focal point in the race to become New Hampshire's next governor.

The region’s high energy rates make it a key economic issue, and climate change make it a crucial environmental one.

Democrats Molly Kelly and Steve Marchand and Republican Governor Chris Sununu are all working to differentiate themselves on those challenges.

Marchand is a self-described energy wonk. He's gone all in on the details of what he calls "generational change."

File

Governors from every New England state but Maine are weighing in on lowering energy rates.

Their joint statement comes as they meet on energy and other issues with leaders from Eastern Canada.

The five governors say they'll work to encourage energy efficiency this coming winter. They say more hydro, wind and natural gas capacity will help lower rates and boost reliability too.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

The two Democratic candidates for New Hampshire governor did their best to differentiate themselves at a forum in Exeter Wednesday night.  

The Rockingham County Democrats hosted the event. It was one of the first times Molly Kelly and Steve Marchand have debated face to face in their primary campaign.

Many in the audience asked questions in search of distinctions – but the answers they heard focused more on style than policy.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Molly Kelly was in Hanover Tuesday, reiterating her criticisms of Gov. Chris Sununu’s energy policies.

In June, Sununu vetoed a bill that would have expanded the state's net metering program – where towns and businesses get rebates for generating their own energy.

The town of Hanover is trying to go all-renewable in the coming decades.

An advocacy group says the state's renewable energy mandates rely too much on out-of-state investments and so-called "dirty" fuels.

New Hampshire's renewable energy policy aims to get the state using 25 percent renewable power by 2025. To get there, it increases the required use of different types of renewable fuels every year.

Britta Greene for NHPR

Right now, a group of hydroelectric dams on the Connecticut River are undergoing a once-in-a-generation process – a federal relicensing. NHPR’s Annie Ropeik went to the dams and talked with people who live, work and play nearby about what they hope might change.  

NHPR File Photo

Governor Chris Sununu has signaled he’ll sign a pair of energy-related bills approved by legislators at the end of session last week.

One gives lawmakers control of the system benefits charge. That's a small fee on energy bills that helps pay for energy efficiency upgrades for low-income ratepayers.

Legislators also voted to tell utilities to list the costs of complying with renewable energy standards on electric bills.

Sununu says that will help consumers understand what’s behind New Hampshire’s high energy rates, which are some of the highest in the country.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

State regulators voted unanimously Thursday not to give Eversource a new hearing for its Northern Pass power line proposal.

That means the case, which has stretched for nearly a decade, will likely go before the New Hampshire Supreme Court. 

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Concord’s city council wants more time to get local businesses on board with a plan to transition to all renewable energy sources within about 30 years.

Councilors in the state capital voted Monday night to get a fiscal review of the proposal before aiming to pass it next month.

File photo / Allegra Boverman for NHPR

New England’s power grid operator is getting pushback on a study that said some worst-case scenarios could lead to rolling blackouts in the region by 2024.

New Hampshire has high electricity rates, a major nuclear power plant, and has been in a years-long battle over hydropower development. How do these factors impact energy policy in the Granite State? We look at the state's newly updated energy plan, which prioritizes lowering rates, and has less to say about mass transit and renewable energy.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Senator Maggie Hassan was in Nashua Friday to tout her proposed study on the renewable energy practice of net metering, which lets ratepayers offset their bills by selling power they generate back into the grid.

It’s commonly used for homeowners to save on energy costs with rooftop solar panels, but it’s possible with bigger customers and energy developments, too – depending on state laws.

Hassan, a Democrat, wants the National Academy of Sciences to study the issue, so states like New Hampshire can fine-tune those rules.

US Department of Energy

Offshore wind supporters will mark Earth Day with a rally outside the Statehouse Sunday.

They want Gov. Chris Sununu to request a federal study of the Seacoast's wind potential.

Griffin Sinclair-Wingate, of the group 350 New Hampshire, says generating more clean power in-state will help Granite Staters financially and environmentally. And he thinks offshore wind is a perfect way to do it.

Jim Richmond

New Hampshire is refocusing its energy policy for the next decade, aiming to prioritize lower costs for consumers and to allow “unaided market competition” for all forms of energy.

Chris Jensen for NHPR

A pre-planned outage at Berlin's wood-burning power plant ends Saturday night.

The 75-megawatt Burgess Biomass Plant has been down for routine maintenance since last weekend.

Plant manager David Walker says they've been doing this twice a year since 2016.

"Biomass plants will typically schedule this time of year, because of what they call the spring and the fall mud season, so the loggers aren't allowed to get into the woods, or if the roads are posted and whatnot,” he says.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

 

Renewable energy advocates say they want to see more communities cutting emissions and pushing for offshore wind development in New Hampshire.

 

The League of Conservation Voters launched a new campaign in Portsmouth on Wednesday to push for those reforms at the state and local levels. 

 

WPS Geography

Environmentalists will kick off a new campaign for clean energy development in Portsmouth Wednesday.

The League of Conservation Voters' "Clean Energy for All" project spans 30 states, including New Hampshire.

State Director Rob Werner says they're unveiling the campaign in Portsmouth because zeroing out greenhouse gas emissions and using all renewable sources of power are now part of that city's energy policy goals.

ISO-New England

New England has gotten federal approval for a first-in-the-nation type of power supply auction. It'll let new renewable energy projects take over for old fossil fuel plants on the grid.

Once a year, the nonprofit grid operator ISO-New England holds an auction for power generators who want to supply energy for the region, starting three years out. 

Courtesy John Stark Regional High School

Communities across the state will confront questions of energy sustainability at their annual town meetings this week.

Several southwest New Hampshire and Seacoast towns plan to vote on urging the state and federal government to study offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine.

Some of those towns are far from the ocean, but Henry Herndon, director of local energy solutions for the New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association, says they could still benefit from new renewable power in the region.

Rob Strong / Sierra Club

A new report from the Sierra Club says about 50 American municipalities are now working on using 100 percent renewable energy in the coming years.

The first New Hampshire town to get on board was Hanover, which says it’s nearly a quarter of the way toward using only renewable electricity by 2030.

col&tasha, Flickr

Massachusetts is expected to decide by Friday if it can move forward on a deal with Northern Pass.

Since Eversource was denied a permit by the state of New Hampshire, other developers – large and small – have been eager to step up.

Massachusetts wants to sign a contract or contracts for 1,200 megawatts of renewable power by late 2020.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Massachusetts opted last week for one large power line to cover a big chunk of its energy needs for the next 20-plus years.

The Northern Pass proposal beat out other big transmission projects and dozens of smaller options for the right to supply all renewable power the Commonwealth wants.

As NHPR's Annie Ropeik reports, this has analysts and developers wondering what role smaller projects will play in the future of the grid.

Thomas Gehrke / Flickr Creative Commons

Energy developers are set to learn Thursday which of their projects will get long-term contracts to provide 1,200 megawatts of renewable energy to Massachusetts.

Several projects in New Hampshire are in the running.

Developers sent in more than 40 proposals to bring hydro, solar and wind power to Massachusetts, primarily from Northern New England and Canada.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

The legislature is debating whether utilities should tell customers how much of their electric bills go toward renewable energy. 

Monthly energy bills already show how much each customer pays for things like transmission. Now, Rep. Michael Harrington is proposing adding a line, showing the cost per ratepayer of the Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS.

NH Solar Shares

Plymouth will soon be home to the state's first small solar panel arrays designed to help low-income families. The nonprofit behind the project hopes other towns will follow suit.  

Solar Shares has raised more $115,000 for the arrays and plans to break ground on the first one, near the Common Man Inn, in the spring.

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