Defending the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) In New Hampshire

Clean Air-Cool Planet offered the following testimony before the New Hampshire Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on April 19, 2012. 

Testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on HB 1490 - relative to New Hampshire’s regional greenhouse gas initiative cap and trade program for controlling carbon dioxide emissions.

April 19, 2012 Roger Stephenson, Clean Air-Cool Planet, 100 Market Street Suite 204 Portsmouth NH 03801

Mr. Chairman thank you for this privilege to testify before your committee.  My name is Roger Stephenson and I am the vice president for Clean Air-Cool Planet, an organization headquartered in New Hampshire since our founding in 2000. Clean Air Cool Planet is supported through contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations.

In 2009 the NH PUC awarded Clean Air Cool Planet a $400,000 grant to develop the Municipal Energy Assistance Project.  Using the grant we hired 8 temporary energy project assistants who lived in 8 regions of the state.  We offered services to municipalities through a simple application process and the Municipal Energy Assistance Project was soon oversubscribed.  The Municipal Energy Assistance Project worked with 48 towns in every senate district in the state to conduct a systematic inventory of energy used for municipal buildings, transportation and street lighting over the course of one year.  Under the PUC RGGI grant we also retained two consulting firms who serviced towns over the course of 12 months.  One firm conducted building energy audits in each of the 48 municipalities in cooperation with selectmen and energy committees, and one executed energy-focused regulatory audits to help 6 communities understand where current local regulations or zoning ordinances might conflict with energy goals in their master plans.

Results of the Municipal Energy Assistance Project

Analysis of the baseline inventory data reveals that the municipalities spent over $9 million on municipal energy annually.  The average annual energy expenditure for the municipalities was $192,656. Our baseline inventories show that the average cost per household to pay for municipal energy use ranged from $50 to over $200 per year.  In contracts, the cost of RGGI-related carbon pollutions allowances per household is estimated to be less than $9 per year. At the projects conclusion we conducted a survey to capture feedback from client towns in order to inform future approaches with municipalities regarding energy assistance People were asked to evaluate the services received through the program in terms of quality and impact, to evaluate the importance of types of additional technical assistance that might best serve their municipality, and to share any suggestions for improvement.

Key Findings of Survey

  • People had a high expectation that their participation in the MEAP program will lead to energy conservation projects;
  • Hands-on assistance is  very important to completing the baseline inventory and subsequent inventories;
  • For those who have been guided through a first energy inventory, the likelihood exists for completing follow-up inventories without assistance especially in towns with strong relationships between selectmen and functioning local energy committees;
  • MEAP is having a positive impact on municipal energy management;
  • A la carte energy-related technical assistance is welcome and necessary

We asked for examples of local energy projects, or how towns planned to use the results of the energy inventories and audits.  The actions and projects are as diverse as the NH towns themselves:

  • Power purchase agreement
  • Lighting upgrade Demand-response projects through utility programs
  • Municipal building energy audits
  • Municipal building retrofit planning
  • PV System installation on a municipal building
  • Streetlight reduction or upgrade projects
  • Evaluation of municipal ordinances and tax policies in light of energy conservation goals
  • Landfill gas-to-energy project
  • Pellet boiler project
  • CFL collection and recycling program
  • No-idling awareness program
  • Biomass heating plant for school
  • Indoor efficiency upgrades (occupancy sensors, thermostats, etc)

The Municipal Energy Assistance Project is one example of how RGGI proceeds might be used over time to assist local communities measure and manage their energy use.  Whether Clean Air-Cool Planet or someone else continues the Municipal Energy Assistance Project is immaterial.  In fact, we envision a future scenario in which New Hampshire’s community colleges might conduct annual energy inventories for towns in their regions, and incorporate elements of the Municipal Energy Assistance Project into their curricula, and help energy committees continue to grow into trusted advisors to their local elected officials. But none of this is possible if HB 1490 is passed.

Clean Air-Cool Planet opposes HB 1490 for four main reasons:

  1. HB 1490 converts the present market-based program into a regulatory program.
  2. HB 1490 eliminates any funding that can be used to help secure NH’s energy future.
  3. HB 1490 grows government.
  4. HB 1490 prevents taxpayers from supporting the greater good in New Hampshire.

HB 1490 changes the present market-based program into a regulatory program. Presently, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative is market-based, with allowances to pollute sold at auction at prices determined by supply and demand. New Hampshire adopted the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, HB 1434, in 2008, to be part of a Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regional cap-and-trade market to purchase and sell allowances for emissions from area power plants.  New Hampshire emissions allowances are sold at quarterly auctions and the proceeds fund the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction (GHGER) Fund. HB1490 removes the allowance pricing and gives allowances away for free.  Moreover, HB 1490 levies a fine on polluters and thereby introduces new regulations at a time when legislators are seeking to eliminate regulations.

HB 1490 eliminates any funding that can be used to help secure NH’s energy future. HB1490 eliminates $45 million over five years that could be applied to town and school assistance to reduce energy costs and the associated energy cost burden shared by taxpayers.  Small businesses will no longer benefit.

HB 1490 grows government. Under HB 1490, any proceeds resulting from regulatory action and fines are to be directed to the Department of Environmental Services. How do small businesses and taxpayers benefit under this scenario? Growing government is not the answer.

HB 1490 prevents New Hampshire citizens from supporting the greater good in New Hampshire. The consequence of HB 1490 is that NH citizens and businesses will continue to pay into the RGGI system, but our money will be swept into the RGGI programs in other Northeastern states  – and forever unavailable to New Hampshire. The PUC has managed a funding program broadly written in the original law, and they have done so rigorously.

In conclusion, HB1490 is fundamentally misguided.  Energy security for New Hampshire is a long haul, we will not achieve it overnight, and the pursuit of energy security should not be guided by pendular swings of policy shaped by ideology.     The issue should not be whether to repeal RGGI, but what to do with the money. Clean Air-Cool Planet welcomes the opportunity to assist members of this committee, other policy makers and the PUC in discussions on the effective use of RGGI proceeds to benefit taxpayers, or help New Hampshire businesses remain competitive in the face of ever rising energy prices, or both.

Explore posts in the same categories: Advocacy, Carbon Management, Community Action, Green House Gas Emissions, local energy, New Hampshire, RGGI, Uncategorized

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