Energy

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.

JasonWalton / Flickr Creative Commons

A recent report places New Hampshire in the middle of the pack nationally when it comes to programs and policies to conserve energy, and that we’re behind the other New England states. We’ll look at the costs, regulations and the possible outcomes down the road.

GUESTS:

EPA Proposes Tighter Woodstove Emissions Standards

Jan 5, 2014
Woodstove 2006
Gord McKenna / Flickr Creative Commons

The EPA is proposing stricter emissions standards for wood stoves.  Manufacturers would have to build stoves that burn 80 percent cleaner than current models.  And for the first time, pellet stoves would be held to the same standards.  The EPA says pollution from these heaters is linked to asthma attacks, heart attacks, and stroke. 

Ben McCleod via Flickr CC

When it comes to investing in energy efficiency, many in New Hampshire’s clean energy sector are worried the state is falling behind the rest of the region. A recent national report seems to bear that out. It ranks New Hampshire last in New England for efficiency policies. But efforts to ramp up the least controversial energy policy – using less – could have a hard time getting the support of the state’s business community.

ISO New England, the region’s energy grid operator, has suspended the independent supplier People’s Power and Gas. 5,700 Granite State customers who turned to PPG for lower rates will be automatically switched to prices set by Public Service of New Hampshire.


Sustainable Sanitation via Flickr Creative Commons

More than a third of the world’s population don’t have access to clean, safe toilets. It’s a humanitarian and global health hazard, that the world bank drains $260 billion off the global economy each year. The Gates Foundation challenged engineers to develop commodes that are clean, cheap, and don’t require electricity, a sewage system, or even water. But as with and new product, you have to test it. That’s where John Koeller comes in. He’s principal engineer at Maximum Performance, a company who tests toilet efficiency, using its own – ahem—patented material.

Michael Kappel via Flickr CC

A rift has developed among New England states over who should pay for transmission lines needed to carry electricity from renewable energy projects.

The issue is whether ratepayers across the region should foot the bill for power lines needed for southern New England. The debate has pitted Vermont against some of the more populated states to our south.

Southern New England – in particular Massachusetts and Connecticut – needs more renewable generation to meet their clean-energy mandates.

New Hampshire lawmakers say new leadership at Public Service of New Hampshire has brought a change of tone. For policy-makers this as a welcome development as they seek a solution to the steady bleed of customers from the state’s largest utility.

WabbyTwaxx via Flickr Creative Commons

With its abundance and low price, natural gas has recently become New England’s preferred energy source, viewed by some as a cleaner fossil fuel. But growing demand has also raised concerns – about the reliability of supplies and possible price hikes. Also, there are long-term questions about becoming too dependent on natural gas.

Guests:

eXtension Farm Energy

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Might another possible source for ethanol be discarded pastries from bakeries? For that matter, wouldn’t fermenting unsold bananas, oranges and apples from grocery store produce departments be able to provide an ample supply of fuel?    -- Curious in Warren, PA

New research raises new questions about how green burning wood really is, given the carbon impacts of both cutting and burning trees for energy.  But biomass supporters say carbon calculations are complicated…taking into account the lifecycle of trees, the sustainable practices of foresters today…and although not perfect, is far better than fossil fuels.

Guests

Andrew Friedland - the Richard and Jane Pearl Professor in Environmental Studies in the Environmental Studies Program at Dartmouth College: He researches carbon cycling in forests.

Istvanski via Flickr Creative Commons

The heat wave that blanketed the east coast in mid-July was the longest to hit New York City in a decade. Not surprisingly, the Big Apple broke records for energy usage, as sweltering city-dwellers turned up the AC.  The US leads the world in climate control – but at a significant financial and environmental cost.  Leon Neyfakh is a reporter for the Ideas section of the Boston Globe – and author of the article “How to Live Without Air Conditioning”.

Former Shell Oil President John Hofmeister calls for a complete re-think on energy policy. Hofmeister currently heads the group “Citizens for Affordable Energy.” He says investing in twenty-first century energies is the only stimulus our economy needs. But that won’t happen, he says, unless private industry takes the reins and government gets largely out of the way.

Guest

John Hofmeister - Founder and CEO, Citizens for Affordable Energy and former Shell Oil President.

NH Energy Wars

Jun 12, 2013

Fifteen years ago, New Hampshire embarked on a dramatic experiment, deregulating electricity. The idea was to bring competition to power production; a sector where typically just a handful of highly-regulated utilities dominated. These days, Granite Staters are being pursued by a variety of power suppliers, from all over.  And their efforts are paying off, with more and morer customers switching from the state’s largest utility, PSNH to new providers.

With lots of proposals on the table right now, from biomass to wind to hydropower, efforts are underway once again to develop a statewide plan and judge these projects with that broader frame of reference in mind.   But it’s not an easy process, taking into account various concerns from the environment to property values to energy costs.  

Guests

Comstock/Hemera Collection

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Now that hot weather is coming, I want to upgrade my home’s A/C. Which are the most energy-saving models and should I go central air or window units?

                                                                                                               -- Jackie Smith, Cary, NC

Former Shell Oil President John Hofmeister calls for a complete re-think on energy policy.  Hofmeister currently heads the group “Citizens for Affordable Energy.” He says investing in twenty-first century energies is the only stimulus our economy needs.  But that won’t happen, he says, unless private industry takes the reins and government gets largely out of the way.

Guest

John Hofmeister - Founder and CEO, Citizens for Affordable Energy and former Shell Oil President.

Vermont editor Tom Butler says no matter how energy efficient we become, there’s a limit to our consumption, even with renewable green sources. Instead, he says, we must recognize the true costs of our relentless search for resources to power perpetual growth. We’ll look at this idea and others presented in a sweeping new book called Energy.

Guest

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

For the most dedicated environmentalists, small scale renewables, right in our back-yard are the gold standard of energy generation. In the final installment of this weeklong look at New Hampshire’s energy future, we consider what a more distributed grid might look like.

Along with smart-grid, micro-grid is the newest buzz word in the energy world. Basically it’s a little island of power lines coupled with its own source of energy, that is still wired into the broader grid. They’re not totally self-sufficient but can generate their own electricity for short bursts when needed.

Eugene Hunt / SustainX

The energy grid is vastly more complicated than it was ten years ago. The old model was to plug in and pay for what you use, but now the grid is starting to ask for something back from consumers. This change is aimed at flatten the demand curve.

Think about how you use electricity: you wake up, turn on some lights, and maybe have a hot shower. After work you come home, cook some dinner, and watch TV. In the winter, maybe you heat with some kind of electric heat, or – even more likely – maybe in the summer you switch on AC.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

New Hampshire’s energy grid relies heavily on fossil fuels like oil and coal, and getting the grid off of those fuels will be a major hurdle in addressing the challenge of global warming.

But here in New Hampshire, it’s proving a steep challenge to get carbon out of the electric supply, without breaking the bank for customers or utilities. But that doesn’t mean that people aren’t trying. As part of a weeklong look at New Hampshire’s Energy Future, we ask what’s being done about CO2?

Efficiency First

Michael Kappel via Flickr CC

Proposed energy projects are causing a stir among New Hampshire lawmakers. Lawmakers will consider a raft of bills that would change how the state considers and approves such installations.

NRCgov via Flickr Creative Commons

Energy is big business and a big issue inextricably linked to politics. Rising gas prices and huge natural gas and oil finds in the U.S. thrust energy into the 2012 presidential arena, but little was said about nuclear power—which supplies about a fifth of America’s power. Although some environmentalists are now advocating for nukes, the question of how to safely isolate existing waste has been plaguing the industry and government for decades.

Donna Hiltz / NHPR

A proposed wind farm in the Newfound lake area has once again raised familiar themes in New Hampsire:  A desire for the Granite state to use more clean energy, versus local concerns over property values, as well as impacts on the environment and tourism.  We’ll re-examine these arguments in light of this new proposal. 

Guests

Zoonar/Thinkstock

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: How energy efficient (and comfortable) is underfloor heating, sometimes known as radiant heating?                                                                                              -- Marcy Dell, Boston, MA

Underfloor radiant heating involves under laying the floor with a hot element or tubing that transfers heat into the room via infrared radiation and convection, obviating the need for forced or blowing air.

Brand X Pictures

EarthTalk®
E - The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: Has anyone calculated the energy wasted at night by unnecessary lighting in and around buildings? What can we do to reduce our light footprint?       -- Bill Rehkamp, via e-mail

Skating on Ice Made by the Sun

Jul 10, 2012
(Photo by Sarah Reynolds)

As summer hits Cape Cod, out come the fishing rods, sailboats, and…. Hockey pucks?  In Falmouth, Massachusetts, youth hockey leagues and recreational skaters are carving up the ice in a brand new ice rink this month – one that’s powered by summer sunlight.  Independent producer Sarah Reynolds has the story.

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