Starting tomorrow Unitil customers will no longer be able to buy renewable energy from the utility. Only 25 of the company’s 75,000 customers in the state opt to pay extra for renewable power, and the utility says the cost of running the program don’t justify continuing it.
Unitil’s Green Neighbor program has been around for three years, which is when the legislature required utilities to create such programs. But only .03 percent of their customers signed on, and so the law allows them to ask regulators for permission to shutter the renewable option.
This sun-fueled source is one of the fastest growing types of renewables in the country. Although still a tiny piece of the energy portfolio, many are taking note of this expansion, including traditional utilities. We’re looking at these brightening prospects for solar in New Hampshire and New England and the challenges that might cloud its future growth.
U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster wants to require utility companies to produce at least 25 percent of their power from renewable energy sources like wind, solar and biomass by 2025. Kuster is co-sponsoring legislation to create a national Renewable Electricity Standard. She says doing so would help create nearly 300,000 jobs, cut pollution and save consumers almost $100 billion on their utility bills by 2030. According to Kuster, 29 states, including New Hampshire, already have renewable generation standards.
Regulators have given Public Service of New Hampshire, the state’s largest electric utility, permission to phase out its EarthSmart Green rate, which allows customers pay more to support renewable energy. PSNH asked for relief from the program because just 148 customers are signed up; that’s about .04 percent percent of their customers.
But it’s a phenomenon that isn’t unique to PSNH. In general New Hampshire rate-payers haven’t been convinced to switch to more expensive renewable rates.
A big priority for environmental groups – The Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, or LCHIP – has survived through budget negotiations. But that win comes at the expense of a raid on funds set aside for renewable energy development.
Under the budget deal struck today LCHIP was allotted the full $8 million dollars that it’s expected to raise. The program uses funds raised from fees tacked on certain real-estate transactions to pay for land conservation grants.
New Hampshire is one of only three states with a split legislature: Republicans control the Senate, Democrats the House of Representatives. The two bodies have shown an ability to work together on some issues this session, including business tax credits and limits on lead fishing tackle.
But with the end of the legislative year fast approaching, inter-chamber gamesmanship is on the rise. It can start simple enough. A routine legislative procedure on the House floor.
Available on and off since 1992, the federal Production Tax Credit (PTC) has bolstered the success of many alternative energy providers. The subsidy has been extended again, but only for a year, a "here today/gone tomorrow" situation that has made it tough for companies to forge ahead with confidence.
Dear EarthTalk: What is the "Production Tax Credit" and why is it so important to developing alternative renewable energy?-- Sean Gallagher, Boston, MA
Environmentalists and wind energy boosters breathed a sigh of relief this past January when Congress voted to reinstate the Production Tax Credit (PTC), a federal tax incentive for companies that generate renewable energy from wind, geothermal or “closed-loop” biomass (dedicated energy crops) sources.