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The electric grid is in danger from climate change. New federal money is headed to NH to help.

Power lines in Nottingham, New Hampshire.
Dan Tuohy
Power lines in Nottingham, New Hampshire. Dan Tuohy photo

Strong storms and extreme temperatures are the main reason for power outages in the U.S., and those threats are becoming more frequent with climate change. Federal money is coming to New Hampshire to help the state modernize the electric grid and make it more resilient to those challenges.

The state will be able to use almost $7 million, funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, to make the grid stronger in the face of weather and other natural disasters.

The U.S. experienced 64% more power outages between 2011 and 2021 than in the previous decade, according to Climate Central.

Chris Ellms, deputy commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Energy, said the state is hoping to use the money to reduce the frequency and the duration of disruptive events, like when there’s a big storm and the power goes out. Those, he said, are usually caused by weather and the effects of aging infrastructure, which could be mitigated by more investment in grid resilience.

“The real hope of the funding is to advance projects that go beyond a utility's current resilience planning,” he said. “It's not simply going to supplant or replace funding for existing projects. It's to accelerate down the line investments or to make investments that might not have been made if not for this funding.”

Ellms said the state will have electric utilities put in proposals for spending the money and then allocate it through a competitive process, with part of the scoring criteria being whether the project will benefit a disadvantaged community.

Almost every state has received funding for grid resilience from the same program, along with 49 tribal entities, three territories and Washington, D.C.

New Hampshire is part of the eighth round of this funding, along with other states and tribal entities including Arizona, Florida, Illinois, the Spokane Tribe of the Spokane Reservation, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and West Virginia.

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.

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