Steve Condon speaks on behalf of RGGI

NH Sales Manager Steve Condon speaks to the job-creating and economy-boosting effects of the solar industry at a press conference organized to highlight the benefits of New Hampshire's participation in RGGI

New Hampshire’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), put in place in 2008, is the cornerstone clean energy program in New Hampshire. It is a market based cap and trade program that charges polluters for their carbon emissions and invests the proceeds in energy efficiency measures. Homeowners and businesses can take advantage of critical resources for energy-saving projects through RGGI. To date, RGGI has invested $27 million in energy efficiency, lowering energy bills, keeping energy dollars in New Hampshire, and helping to reduce pollution.

The proceeds from RGGI go to the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Fund, administered by the NH Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The PUC awards grants to applicants that demonstrate competitive energy saving potential and the potential to make significant reductions in emissions and energy use. Each year the PUC distributes the RGGI money amongst the applicants, viewable here: http://www.puc.state.nh.us/Sustainable%20Energy/GHGERF.htm

Despite the efficacy of RGGI, it has been under fire. In March New Hampshire’s House passed a bill to fully repeal RGGI, HB1490. NH’s State Senate took the bill up and amended it. While it’s encouraging that the Senate removed the repeal component, we are concerned with how much the bill weakens RGGI.

The new bill cuts energy efficiency funding in half by placing a $1 threshold on the money going into the PUC’s fund. Allowances are trading at $2 currently, and the opportunity cost will only grow as the economy picks up again. The bill also removes the grant program, and shifts all the proceeds to utility-run energy efficiency programs. We believe that this limits the variety of tools that makes RGGI so effective, by removing the chance for independent businesses to compete for the grants.

ReVision Energy spoke at a press conference organized by Environment New Hampshire just before the House voted on the Senate bill. We pointed out that progressive, market-based carbon programs such as RGGI help to drive the growth of renewable energy, which not only redirects saved energy dollars into the New Hampshire economy, but employs people in the growing renewable energy industry. In fact, the U.S. solar energy market grew 140 percent in the third quarter of 2011 over the same quarter last year, making it one of the fastest growing sectors in the economy (Source: SEIA).

The House did not agree with the changes the Senate made to HB1490. Thus, the bill will go to a committee of conference where both chambers will negotiate changes they can agree with. The best outcome at this point would be for the House and Senate to not reach an agreement, thus killing the RGGI repeal bill. We urge NH residents to contact their State Senators, as well as the Governor, whose support for a veto may become necessary. Tell your legislators to support clean energy by supporting RGGI!

Thanks to Environment New Hampshire for contributing research to this article.