Energy

Giving Matters: Making Renewable Energy Affordable

Jan 31, 2015
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.

As winter arrives, many Vermonters are probably going to be shivering – indoors. The state wants to weatherize 80,000 homes, a quarter of them owned or occupied by people with low incomes, by 2020.

But that goal is behind schedule, even though some new money is coming in.

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.


Giving Matters: Northern Forest Center

Aug 2, 2014
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."

ISO-NE

The New England Independent System Operator (or ISO) has a seemingly simple job: to keep the lights on, and the power running.  But behind this goal are the many hurdles of operating the region’s electric grid. Through the peaks of summer air-conditioning and winter cold snaps, the system must remain always ready for spikes in demand.

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.”

A bi-partisan bill that is a major policy priority for Senator Jeanne Shaheen has easily cleared a procedural vote in the US senate. 79 Senators voted in favor of starting debate on the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, which would ramp up incentives for federal and private spending on energy efficiency measures.

Shaheen is co-sponsoring the bill with Republican Senator Rob Portman from Ohio.

Opower

New Hampshire’s two largest electric utilities are piloting new billing programs, aimed at getting people to save electricity. These programs could be part of a sea change in the way we are billed for electricity, aimed at encouraging efficiency and conservation.  And while convincing Americans to use less energy has always been a bit of a slog, these two pilot programs in New Hampshire hope to change that. One uses the brunt force of economics and the other uses the subtle science of psychology.

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.

Solar In New Hampshire: Big And Small At The Same Time

Jan 28, 2014
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.

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