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Group Says N.H. Renewable Energy Mandates Use Too Much ‘Dirty’ Fuel

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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.

Like many other states, the policy counts the purchase of credits from out-of-state renewable projects toward that goal. But Patrick Woodall, the research director for the nonprofit Food & Water Watch, says that discourages the beneficial growth of renewable infrastructure at home.

"The benefit locally for the environment and for workers and for public health is sort of lost if you're purchasing a renewable credit that might be hundred or even thousands of miles away while you still operate a coal- or a gas-fired power plant,” he says.

In a new report, his group gives New Hampshire a D grade for its renewable portfolio standards. Most of the 29 states with similar policies received low or failing grades, based on the fuels their standards cover, the timelines of their policies and their reliance on out-of-state credits.

Woodall says policies in states like New Hampshire aren’t ambitious enough to offset the worst effects of climate change. And he says the policies shouldn't mandate use of higher-emission sources like the burning of methane gas from landfills or low-grade wood energy at biomass plants.

“These power sources are nominally renewable,” Woodall says. “But they are far from clean.”

Last month, Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed a bill that would have forced New Hampshire’s electric companies to buy more wood-fired energy. The timber industry argues that market is necessary for good forestry. It wants state legislators to overturn the veto when they meet in September.

Legislators put off making other changes to the state's 11-year-old renewable portfolio standards this past session. 

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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