Coal Power Plant in New Hampshire

The coal power plants in New Hampshire are among the oldest and dirtiest in the country

Our friends at SEAREI recently wrote at length about the state of New Hampshire’s aging power plants and the costs that maintaining aging equipment has on the ratepayers and health of the region. PSNH’s coal-fired power plant in Bow, called Merrimack Station, is the worst polluting electric power plant in all of New England.

Doug Bogen writes:

[PSNH] rates for electricity supply went up a whopping 34 percent in January. This means that the average residential ratepayer will now pay about $12 more each month for their electricity … Inflated rates have already caused virtually ALL of PSNH’s commercial customers to go elsewhere for power, which means remaining residential customers have to pay more and more to make up the difference.

The main reason for this sad state of affairs is that PSNH chose over the past decade to lobby for maintaining their aging fleet of coal boilers, despite a historic shift toward more efficient and cleaner gas and renewable sources. Worst among these poor decisions was to belatedly add a pollution scrubber to their Bow plant, despite its cost having ballooned to 3 TIMES the original estimate … To read more sordid details on the uneconomic status of PSNH’s old coal plants, see an op-ed that ran in the Portsmouth Herald back in December: http://www.seacoastonline.com/articles/20121216-OPINION-212160324?cid=sitesearch

Coal is by the far the worst polluting source of electricity generation, but it is not the only traditional fuel source guilty of causing hikes in electric rates. Natural gas – hailed by some as America’s fuel panacea – rose in cost by 50% this year due largely to inadequate infrastructure and high demand.

While promises of ‘clean coal’ and ‘clean’ natural gas continue to fall short, solar in fact is falling in price:

declining cost of PV modules

The good news is that New Hampshire’s solar electric rebate program continues to remain funded, offering up to $3,750 as a cash refund for homeowners, and up to $50,000 for businesses, nonprofits and municipalities.

A Word from the New Hampshire State House

There are several important solar bills in the legislature this session, such as HB542, which would increase alternative compliance payments for utilities who do not meet their RPS guidelines and increase the residential rebate cap from 5kw to 10kw. There is also SB 98, which seeks to allow group net metering.

Group net metering is important because it would allow groups and/or neighborhoods to build a single solar array and have it offset their own meters. It also allows for third-party ownership of solar arrays, a critical part of power purchase agreement (PPA) projects. To accomplish this, only a simple wording change is required (clarifying that customers can benefit when ‘buying power from’ electric generation facilities, rather than just owning or operating it themselves).

Unfortunately, the utilities are hitting against it hard. We would like to see the current wording (with no further amendments) move forward. If you agree (and live in the appropriate part of New Hampshire), please contact Senator Prescott (District 23), Jeb Bradley (District 03), and Bob Odell (District 08).