July 21, 2017

Clean Energy Bill Now Law in NH Without Sununu's Signature

Gov. John Sununu demonstrated his continued reservations about a so-called clean energy bill by allowing SB 129 to become law without his signature.

The bill provides guarantees that 15 percent of the state’s renewable energy fund goes toward the financing of community solar projects as well as increasing the value of renewable energy credits for biomass plants.

Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, a prime sponsor of the bill, said the credits are crucial to keep biomass plants in operation so they can support the 900-1,200 forestry-related jobs in the state.

The Indeck Energy biomass plant in Alexandria, which produces electricity by burning wood chips, closed in the spring and, without SB 129, Bradley argued that the remaining biomass plants are likely to close by 2018, leaving the logging industry without a place to take low-grade forest products, which would cost jobs and set forestry back.

Sununu, however, expressed concerns about the effect of the energy credits on electric rates. He said without offsetting benefits to ratepayers, he could not support the clean energy bill.

State Rep. Amelia Keane, who serves as executive director of New Hampshire Young Democrats, reacted to Sununu’s decision by saying, “In spite of almost a year of hard work and bipartisan compromise in both chambers, Gov. Sununu showed his opposition to a clean energy economy future for New Hampshire when he abstained from signing SB 129 into law."

The legislation more than doubles the solar class II requirements, which will support more solar use and help to boost renewable energy credit prices for solar energy in the future. It also raises the biomass REC price to sustain biomass plants and, by extension, the entire forest industry in the state, which amounts to nearly 4 percent of the Gross State Product.

The bill also removes the 10 kW limit on the residential solar rebate program to encourage greater use of electricity for transportation and thermal needs.

A major focus of the bill is bringing solar benefits to low-income customers, and it provides that all members of a group solar project will receive credits on their electric bills for the power they put into the electric grid.

It also will provide ratepayer savings from the thermal energy class while giving that market time to grow, according to sponsors.

Shelagh Connelly of Resource Management, Inc., which offers advice on agricultural, landscaping, and municipal resources, said the bill is critical to the survival of New Hampshire’s biomass plants and the timberland owners and the forest products businesses that rely on the low-grade timber markets the plants provide.

“Without those plants,” Connelly said, “New Hampshire will lose most of its low-grade timber markets. Without these markets, … foresters and landowners will lose an important tool for sustainable forestry, loggers will lose an important market for their timber, and sawmills will lose an important market for mill waste. And farmers will lose wood ash.”

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