‘Radical’ cuts threaten energy efficiency progress in New Hampshire

Rebates and incentives that encourage New Hampshire residents to upgrade their homes to be more efficient were slashed last week by state regulators in a move that energy efficiency advocates called radical and a step backward.

The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission issued an order Friday that cut funding for utility energy budgets by nearly half in 2023 compared to 2020, and would mark a return to 2017 funding levels if enacted.

“Given recent headlines about rising energy prices, and coming on the heels of further news about the urgency of the climate crisis from the COP 26 summit in Glasgow, this move is out of step with the rising focus on the importance of energy efficiency,” Martin Kushler, a senior fellow with the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, said.

That NHPUC had been considering a settlement agreement that would have significantly increased utility energy efficiency funding, Kushler said. The proposal was supported by the state’s utilities.

New Hampshire Bulletin broke down the impact of the NHPUC decision:

The decision would lower residential electric bills by a few dollars per month. Energy efficiency is funded through what’s called the System Benefits Charge, one portion of a resident’s monthly electric bill. Right now, the charge is around $4 a month for the typical household. Under Friday’s order, that would go down to around $1.80 a month by 2023. Instead of paying about $40 per year in SBC charges, a household in 2023 would pay around $20 a year. The rejected plan would have cost a household up to $70 a year.

The impacts of the coronavirus pandemic made 2020 “the worst year in a decade” for energy efficiency, according to the International Energy Agency. Improved energy efficiency is seen as a crucial piece to addressing climate change and offers “some of the fastest and most cost-effective actions to reduce CO2 emissions,” according to IEA.