Climate activists call on state officials to invest in renewable energy, divest from fossil fuels
In response to recent electricity rate hikes, climate activists and organizers are demanding state officials expand New Hampshire’s renewable energy resources. The advocates met outside the State House Thursday at a press conference organized by the climate justice nonprofit, 350 NH Action.
“A transition to renewable energy is no longer a pipe dream. It’s happening elsewhere. It's possible here, and it's needed here,” said Seamus Burke, a 350 NH intern who spoke at the rally.
New Hampshire falls behind its New England neighbors with only 19% of its in-state electricity generation coming from renewable sources, as of 2020. Meanwhile, renewable resources account for 79% of electricity generated in Maine, 30% in Massachusetts, and 100% in Vermont. And it’s the only state in the New England electricity grid that does not mandate greenhouse gas reductions economy-wide.
New Hampshire relies on four utility providers, two of which—Eversource and Liberty—doubled their electricity rates this summer. On average, residential customers will experience about a $70 increase in their electricity bills starting this month. Market forces due to the war in Ukraine, extreme weather in places where natural gas is produced, and increased demand have contributed to price spikes.
Katie Lessard, another 350 NH spokesperson, demanded that Governor Chris Sununu go farther than his current plan to address rate hikes. “Change your actions or proceed knowing that all of us here today will do everything in our power to ensure you do not return to Concord next fall,” she said.
She and other activists criticized Sununu for accepting donations from utilities and fossil fuel companies. This includes at least $4,500 from Eversource this campaign cycle; donations from several oil companies for up to $5,000; and a $15,000 donation from NextEra Energy Seabrook, the owner of the Seabrook nuclear power plant.
“We are calling on Governor Sununu to no longer prioritize the fossil fuel industry and companies and lobbyists that are giving him campaign donations,” said Jamie Henn, director of Fossil Free Media.
The governor’s press office replied to activists’ criticism in an email, stating, “To inaccurately claim that Governor Sununu has not acted to reduce the impacts of climate change is simply not supported by the facts.”
They pointed to a number of bills that Governor Sununu supported over the last few years, including a 2019 law banning offshore drilling and more recent senate billssupporting offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine. They also cited the recent community power rules approved by the state’s utilities commission, which will allow towns and cities to prioritize renewable energy sources and save money on their bills.
“The governor is committed to vetoing costly legislation that would raise costs for Granite Staters and is clear in his support for responsible legislation that lowers costs while delivering environmental benefits,” they said.
Further, they added that the governor is continuing to update his plan to support residents through electricity rate hikes.
The electric bill increases Granite Staters will start seeing in September are from a hike in the “default energy service rate,” which is a pass-through cost. Eversource saysthat means they don’t profit off of that cost. But fossil fuel companies have been criticized for making record profits as natural gas prices soar.
“We need to rightly place the blame for profiteering and utility rate increases on the fossil fuel industry and the politicians holding fossil fuels in positions of power,” said Henn.
Despite some climate-forward bills passing in New Hampshire this past legislative session, several others, including bills that would set up a youth environment education council and set greenhouse gas emission reduction goals, died in committee or on the House floor.
Meanwhile, another round of extreme heat is hitting the state this week, with temperatures reaching the high 90s. Consumers will have to continue weighing the costs of cooling down with new electricity rate spikes.