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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

With a murky energy future, where should New Hampshire go?

NASHUA – More electric cars or more natural gas connections? Better insulation or a different way of paying utilities? Geothermal pumps or wind farms?

Those are the sort of non-trivial questions, carrying answers that range from “both” to “neither” to “it depends,” that New Hampshire will be pondering in years to come as we try to shape our energy future. Anybody can contribute their two cents worth to the discussion at Nashua Community College on Wednesday, when state officials present the draft version of a 100-page New Hampshire State Energy Strategy, and take questions and suggestions as the draft becomes final. ...

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NASHUA – More electric cars or more natural gas connections? Better insulation or a different way of paying utilities? Geothermal pumps or wind farms?

Those are the sort of non-trivial questions, carrying answers that range from “both” to “neither” to “it depends,” that New Hampshire will be pondering in years to come as we try to shape our energy future. Anybody can contribute their two cents worth to the discussion at Nashua Community College on Wednesday, when state officials present the draft version of a 100-page New Hampshire State Energy Strategy, and take questions and suggestions as the draft becomes final.

The report is scheduled to be completed Sept. 1. Despite its detail there is a weakness in the way legislators set it up: It has no enforcement powers.

“It’s meant to get people
thinking,” said Karen Cramton, deputy director of the Office of Energy and Planning. “It’s strategic, not an implementation report.”

“It is not binding in any way with policy, statute or regulations,” said Kate Epsen, executive director of the New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association, an advocacy group that supports many of the suggestions in the draft. “It will ground the state in the direction that it wants to take, for the 2015 legislative session, in Public Utilities Commission ongoing activity regulations, governor’s executive orders, throughout all the branches and private market that will occur.”

Office of State Energy and Planning Director Meredith Hatfield will give presentation on the 100-page report, following by other discussion including questions and comments from the audience. Anyone can attend, but people are asked to register in advance by emailing oepinfo@nh.gov with the subject line “Energy Strategy Registration.”

The report gives suggestions in five broad areas: energy efficiency, modernizing the electricity grid, renewable power generation, fuel choice and transportation options.

Many of its suggestions are broad and general, such as recommending outreach and education programs to make people and businesses understand the situation better, but they also tackle certain specific issues.

Among those are whether, and how, to change the way that utilities make money so they will do a better job encouraging efficiency, since right now, most of their income comes from just selling more energy; using existing state laws to encourage energy storage; and installing a “widespread electric vehicle charging infrastructure” while also coordinating expansion of I-93 projects.

The report is also full of information about the state’s current energy situation and its projected future, some of which may be surprising – including a prediction that per-capita energy demand for transportation will fall by one-quarter in the next two decades.

David Brooks can be reached at 594-6531 or dbrooks@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Brooks on Twitter (@GraniteGeek).