December 6, 2022

New Hampshire regulators restore funding for energy efficiency programs

New Hampshire regulators have restored funding for the state’s energy efficiency programs following an outcry from state leaders and the clean energy industry.

In an order issued on Thursday, the state Public Utilities Commission restored funding for energy efficiency programs through NHSaves at 2020-21 levels.

The move is a reversal for the regulatory agency, which last year voted to reject a three-year energy efficiency plan for NHSaves and slashed funding for the program.

Commissioners who voted to defund the program cited a plan that would have led to higher residential and commercial utility bills to fund efficiency surcharges.

Currently, the average household pays about $40 a year through a so-called System Benefits Charge tacked onto utility bills. The plan had called for increasing that to $70 a year.

But the decision sent shockwaves through the state’s budding clean energy sector, which said the decision will cost jobs, set back climate change goals and hurt the state’s economic growth. Those groups welcomed the decision by regulators to walk back their original order.

“We’ve stopped the bleeding,” Sam Evans-Brown, executive director of Clean Energy New Hampshire, posted on social media in response to the new order. “We’ve demonstrated the bipartisan appeal of efficiency programs.”

The NHSaves program provides rebates and other incentives to homeowners and businesses to install energy-efficient heating and cooling systems in hopes of reducing the use of natural gas, heating oil and other fossil fuels. The program is funded by a surcharge on utility bills, which is currently about $40 a year.

Efforts to revive the NHSaves program won the support of Gov. Chris Sununu, who wrote to lawmakers urging them to approve a bipartisan proposal to restore funding.

Last month, Clean Energy New Hampshire filed a lawsuit against the commission on behalf of contractors who will lose business as a result of its decision to defund the program.

The lawsuit claims that the PUC’s order will prevent businesses from making sizable investments in their energy efficiency that stimulate the economy and cut costs.

The Office of the Consumer Advocate appealed the commission’s order to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, and a settlement was worked out by the state Department of Justice.

In its order restoring funding for the program, PUC commissioners wrote it was “just and reasonable and in the public interest” to approve the settlement but vowed to continue its efforts to keep energy costs down for consumers.

“It is crucial that the commission continue the important work of evaluating energy efficiency program proposals to ensure that those programs are cost-effective use of ratepayers’ money,” PUC Chairman Daniel Goldner and other commissioners wrote in the order.

This article was originally posted on New Hampshire regulators restore funding for energy efficiency programs

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