A bipartisan plan to restore New Hampshire’s energy efficiency programs is moving quickly through the state Legislature with support from Gov. Chris Sununu.
On Tuesday, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted unanimously to advance the proposal that would restore state funding to the NHSaves program at 2020 levels.
The bill’s primary sponsor, state Rep. Michael Vose, R-Epping, said the proposal would set a funding formula that includes modest increases in energy efficiency rates in the coming years and added an amendment to make the program “immune from tampering” by the state’s Public Utilities Commission.
“The Public Utilities Commission, after all, implements state law, they don’t make state law,” Vose told the committee during a hearing on Tuesday. “So they will follow the statutory language in this amendment to implement energy efficiency programs going forward.”
In November, the commission voted to reject a three-year energy efficiency plan for NHSaves and slashed funding for the state-administered program over the next two years.
While the move was aimed at providing relief to energy consumers who help fund the program, it 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.
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 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.
Several contractors told the committee on Tuesday that the sudden cut in funding for the energy efficiency program has placed their businesses in jeopardy.
Efforts to revive the NHSaves program have the support of Gov. Chris Sununu, who wrote to lawmakers this week urging them to approve the bipartisan proposal. He said the move will provide accountability, stability and savings for ratepayers.
“This bill will give greater consistency to New Hampshire’s ratepayer-funded energy efficiency for both those benefiting from the programs and those paying the costs,” he wrote. “It provides the structure to ensure that these programs are set up for long-term success.”
The bill now advances to the full Senate which must approve it before sending it back to the House for final approval and ultimately landing on Sununu’s desk.
This article was originally posted on Efforts to restore New Hampshire energy efficiency on fast track