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State Legislators Steer RGGI Toward More Energy Efficiency Funding

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

State lawmakers on Tuesday reaffirmed their support for the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

The RGGI program lets polluters across nine states either cut carbon emissions or buy carbon allowances. Right now, New Hampshire puts a fifth of the money from selling those allowances into energy efficiency projects, and rebates the rest to customers.

Now, the House of Representatives has passed a bill putting RGGI's residential rebate toward more efficiency projects, especially for schools and low-income families.

And they’ve voted not to repeal RGGI or make it all-rebate.

Rockingham Republican Brian Stone spoke against the bill.

“The average rebate in NH for ratepayers is $1.70 per month,” he said. “Increasing the amount by a few cents isn't going to do much good, and will eliminate funding for extremely valuable municipal energy projects, [which are] worth far more than the amount invested in them and save taxpayers more money in the long run.”

The proposal to increase efficiency funding now goes to the House Finance committee. But Gov. Chris Sununu says he's concerned about the bill in its current form.

"Knowing that this proposal will increase residential rates is something of great concern," he said in a written statement to NHPR. "The sponsors of the bill should be looking at ways to decrease rates for all ratepayers, not raise them."

RGGI advocates say they were pleasantly surprised by Tuesday's votes, except for one other outcome they say would unfairly politicize energy efficiency spending.

Lawmakers voted 173 to 171 to give the legislature control of the system benefits charge, a small fee on electric bills that generates most of the state’s efficiency funds.

That bill has Gov. Sununu's support. The Senate takes it up next.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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