Energy

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Officials with Northern Pass, the controversial hydropower project, have announced an offer to bury an additional fifty-two miles of power lines – roughly a third of the total. But opponents still have concerns, including impacts on the environment and property values. We’ll get the latest, hear from both sides, and find out what might be next. 

Aboard a ferry off the coast of Rhode Island, state and federal officials take a close look at a steel structure poking out of the ocean. It's the first foundation affixed to the seafloor for a five-turbine wind farm off the state's coast.

It's a contrast to what's happening off the coast of Massachusetts. Developer Cape Wind has spent more than 10 years and millions of dollars there on a massive wind farm that it may never build.

https://flic.kr/p/5CMq7a / Flicker CC

This story starts with with John Ramaska, of Manchester, and any customer like him. A while back, he wanted to switch to heating his house with natural gas.

“My neighbor in back of me right over here has gas, so I’m in between gas and gas. No big deal, this is great!” he says, describing his thinking at the time.

But then he found out the pipe that connected him to the gas main wasn’t up to code, and he’d have to get a new hot water heater, and in the end Ramaska didn’t make the change.

The city of Portsmouth's effort to is trying to overturn a neighboring town’s approval of a controversial propane rail project. On Tuesday, a Superior Court judge heard arguments from attorneys on both sides.

The controversial Sea-3 rail expansion project would ship propane from fracking sites in the American West to their expanded Newington facility.  And it would run through Portsmouth. 

mariordo via Flickr/CC - http://ow.ly/sybjF

Durham is set to install a new charging station for electric cars.

Town officials say the dual-port station will be installed at the Pettee Brook parking lot, as part of a repaving project that’s set to begin this week.

According to Durham officials, the charging station is being funded by a $5,000 state grant. They say the University of New Hampshire will also contribute toward the costs.

Rob_ / Flickr CC

The annual Clean Tech Leadership Index measures and ranks states on a range of indicators, such as renewable energy generation, green buildings and transportation.

New Hampshire ranks twelfth overall on the 2015 index, up four places from last year. Ron Pernick of CleanEdge, which produces the annual report, says the state excels in several areas. 

Credit Kinder Morgan / http://www.kindermorgan.com/content/docs/TGP_Northeast_Energy_Direct_Fact_Sheet.pdf

The selectboard in Salem is urging the developer of the proposed Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline to consider alternate routes through town. 

Chair Jim Keller says the board believes the path of the preliminary route may be more economical for developer Kinder Morgan, but is untenable for residents.

“There’s a school nearby, a rehab hospital nearby their path, a protected water body nearby, “ Keller says. “So we had asked them to seek out alternative routes.”

BES Photos / Flickr/cc

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In New Hampshire, Pittsfield schools have recently adopted an approach that flips the traditional model of teaching through student-led discussion and independent projects. We’re looking into how this working for Pittsfield.

Anthony Auston / Flicker CC

New England governors and policy staff met in Connecticut Thursday to discuss energy. The meeting didn’t produce any block-buster announcements, but in a joint statement the New England governors have pledged to work toward the goal of reducing the cost of energy.

ISO New England

  This fall, energy industry watchers were predicting that a cold-winter in New England would lead to high natural gas and electricity prices.

But despite record-breaking cold, energy prices have – thus far – remained in check this winter.

Last winter, the whole-sale price for electricity – that’s the price utilities and electricity supply companies pay – spiked to unprecedented heights.

Southern N.H. Debates Natural Gas Pipeline Proposal

Feb 5, 2015
Kinder Morgan

With high energy costs and inadequate means for transporting natural gas into the region, some are championing construction of an interstate pipeline spanning eighty miles and seventeen communities in New Hampshire’s southern region.  But opposition is fierce among those concerned about environmental impact and property values.

GUESTS:

D-Kuru/Wikimedia Commons

The Northern Forest Center helps create economic opportunity and community vitality from healthy working forests.

 

David Benckendorf participated in the Center’s Model Neighborhood Project, and was one of 40 homeowners who purchased and installed a wood pellet boiler with the center’s help. “there were a lot of advantages to it and it really peaked my interest.” He eventually converted his oil furnace to a wood pellet boiler.

Craik Sustainable Living Project via Flickr/CC - http://ow.ly/HEy2x

This is a time of year when heating bills usually go up, and some residents consider alternative energy sources for their heating.

Proponents of geothermal heat say their systems ought to be a bigger part of New Hampshire's energy landscape.

The prospects for geothermal - that's the topic of this month's Science Café discussion, which takes place Wednesday, January 21st, at Killarney's Pub in Nashua.

Michael Kappel via Flickr CC

Four utilities in New Hampshire are offering programs to help their customers save money by lowering energy costs as electric rates are expected to soar this winter.

Liberty Utilities says it will have a 50-percent hike while Unitil says its rates will rise 44 percent. New Hampshire Electric Cooperative says its customers will see a 29 percent increase. Public Service of New Hampshire says its rates will remain stable.

Gov. Maggie Hassan is making nominations to the Public Utilities Commission and to a committee that would allow permitting for energy projects like the Northern Pass. 

She's nominating Martin Honigberg of Concord to serve as chairman of the Public Utilities Commission at Wednesday's Executive Council meeting. She's also nominating Patricia Weathersby of Rye and Roger Hawk of Concord to the Site Evaluation Committee. 

The council must confirm the nominations. 

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Some electricity customers in New Hampshire are in for a shock this winter. Numerous utilities across New England have announced electricity rates that are some of the highest in the history of the continental United States. And it’s a problem that’s expected to get worse before it gets better.

For some consumers, this is more real than for others. Don Sage and his wife make due on a bit less than $30,000 a year in social security payments. So he can ill-afford to pay another $40 a month on his electric bills.

Via Vermontbiz.com

An environmental group has lost its bid to intervene in a proposal by Vermont Gas Systems to build a pipeline between Colchester and Middlebury.

The Rutland Herald reports Public Service Board denied the Vermont Public Interest Research Group's request to intervene in a re-evaluation of the approval granted to Vermont Gas.

Republican Gov. Paul LePage is defending his support of legislation that could make it easier for private businesses to use eminent domain to seize property for natural gas pipeline expansion. The governor says the legislation is necessary to alleviate what he calls the New England energy crisis. But the governor's two opponents oppose the move.

At issue is federal legislation known as H.R.1900, The Natural Gas Permitting Reform Act, which aims to streamline the permitting process for the development of natural gas pipeline projects.

Sunset Power Lines
Michael Kappel/Flickr CC

The state’s Public Utilities Commission has approved a 47 percent rate hike for Liberty Utilities customers.

Company spokesman John Shore acknowledged the increase is significant.

“When the rates go up like this, it’s not something we like to see, obviously. Our customers don’t like to see it. But unfortunately, it’s what the market is.”

Shore says the average customer will be paying about $50 more each month.

Sam Evans-Brown

New Hampshire's gubernatorial and U.S. Senate candidates are addressing energy industry leaders, consumers and policy makers at an annual summit in Concord.

The New Hampshire Energy Summit being held Monday is organized by the Dupont Group and the New Hampshire Independent Energy Council, a coalition of non-utility electric generators, renewable generation developers, private transmission companies and electricity suppliers.

Gov. Maggie Hassan and her Republican challenger both will speak, as will U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Scott Brown.

NH OEP

At the tail-end of the section that opens New Hampshire’s ten-year energy strategy, released Tuesday, there are three paragraphs that acknowledge the issue which has been dominating the regional energy conversation. During the winter prices spike because natural gas electricity plants have been built and homeowners have converted to natural gas for heating and the region’s network of gas pipelines has not expanded as demand has grown.

USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab via Flickr

Today on Word of Mouth, invasive species like Zebra Mussels to Asian Carp, are destroying biodiversity across North America. Or are they? Also, we'll look into China’s push to build a frozen food infrastructure. The number of urban Chinese households with a refrigerator has risen from just 7 percent to 95 percent in a decade. We’ll find out what that means for global climate change.

Listen to the full show and Read more for individual segments.


D-Kuru/Wikimedia Commons

The Northern Forest Center helps create economic opportunity and community vitality from healthy working forests.

 

David Benckendorf participated in the Center’s Model Neighborhood Project, and was one of 40 homeowners who purchased and installed a wood pellet boiler with the center’s help. “there were a lot of advantages to it and it really peaked my interest.” He eventually converted his oil furnace to a wood pellet boiler.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

The Governors of New England and the premiers of the Eastern Canadian Provinces have just wrapped up a meeting in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. The conference was focused on the issues of energy and trade, though dueling protests outside the conference meant energy stole the spotlight for much of the event. But the speakers and resolutions of the conference barely touched on the most pressing energy issues facing New England, and this careful side-stepping of the issues  is a reflection of a tumultuous energy landscape.

A biomass plant has been proposed to occupy the site of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant, which is shutting down at the end of year.

The idea is in its infancy. The Brattleboro Reformer reports officials plan to organize a public forum to discuss the details.

The state has negotiated a detailed agreement with Entergy, owner of the nuclear plant, providing for millions of dollars for economic development and clean energy projects as well as a "timely decommissioning."

It would be easy to miss Millsfield. The unincorporated place in the North Country is home to 10 households, many of which are tucked away in the woods, and just two businesses, a bed and breakfast called A Peace of Heaven and the Log Haven restaurant.

“Electricity didn’t show up until the 60s,” said Luc Cote, who’s lived in Millsfield for roughly forty years. “Phone line didn’t come up until mid-60s as well.”

Public Service of New Hampshire is an energy utility – but it’s about to try an experiment in psychology, which it hopes might prompt consumers to use less electricity.

It's known as "nudging," and to explain how it works we turn to David Brooks, who writes the weekly GraniteGeek science column for the Nashua Telegraph and GraniteGeek.org.

The New Hampshire House appears poised to send the question of whether the state's largest utility should sell its power plants to regulators.

In 2012, lawmakers tried to force PSNH to sell its power plants outright, but that effort stalled in the New Hampshire house. So this time around they’ve written a bill that asks the Public Utilities Commission to rule on whether that sale would eventually lower electric rates.

That bill got near unanimous support during a committee hearing Thursday, including from PSNH itself.

Tai Viinikka, courtesy Flickr

We’ve been talking about energy a lot lately in New Hampshire – debates over wind farms, jet-fueled turbines generating power during peak demand, and, of course, Northern Pass.

There’s one energy project that hasn’t gotten much attention lately – a project in Peterborough that would create the largest solar power array in the state.

Flikr Creative Commons / Claudio Schwarz

 

New Hampshire's House is considering a moratorium on new wind turbine and electric transmission line projects like the 187-mile power line proposed by Northern Pass.

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