Expanding energy efficiency for electric and natural gas customers will deliver multiple benefits to New Hampshire. For customers, efficiency investments lower utility bills now and in the future, improve comfort, health and safety, and provide them with more control and understanding of their energy use. For the electric grid, efficiency increases reliability and decreases outages, and delays or avoids the need to spend significant funds on new capacity. For the local economy, these investments create local jobs, give businesses a competitive edge, and lower energy prices for all. And for the environment, efficiency reduces air pollution, water use and greenhouse gas emissions.
Indeed, energy efficiency is the cheapest, cleanest, most plentiful energy resource in the state.Investing in energy efficiency saves money in the long-term, but there are many market barriers which prevent consumers from doing it on their own. While New Hampshire’s utility-run efficiency programs have provided a host of benefits to residents, it is falling increasingly behind it neighbors. New Hampshire ranked #20 on the 2015 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard, released October 22nd by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a national nonpartisan organization. While the state is up two places since last year, it still ranks well below its neighbors in New England – Massachusetts (#1), Vermont (#3), Rhode Island, (#4) Connecticut (#6), and Maine (#14).
So where can New Hampshire begin to gain ground and reap increased benefits from investing in efficiency? Here are two suggestions for (nearly) immediate gains:
Energy Efficiency Resource Standard
Currently New Hampshire is the only state in New England without a formal efficiency savings goal, which is one key reason why the state’s efficiency savings are well below its neighbors. The Public Utilities Commission is currently undergoing a process to establish an Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) in the state. Utilities and other stakeholders have filed proposals this month for how such a standard might be structured and funded, with the goal of finalizing it this spring. The PUC is on the right track, but for the EERS to prove successful it must contain a clear and ambitious goal for energy savings to ensure all New Hampshire residents get adequate help in reducing their energy use.
Building Energy Codes
Putting in place modern building energy codes is crucial because it ensures that new buildings start off highly efficient. It is a lot easier to build efficient buildings than to retrofit inefficient ones down the road. New Hampshire adopted the 2009 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC), a leading model energy code for new residential and commercial construction. Unfortunately it did not implement them in 2012, as most leading states did. If the 2012 IECC were already in place, it would not only have earned a full point under ACEEE’s scoring, but also would have locked in major energy savings as all new construction would have had to comply with this more stringent code level for the last three years. The New Hampshire Building Code Review Board is in the process of reviewing the 2015 IECC, and has held a public hearing. If accepted, the amendments would be effective for a maximum of two years unless ratified by the legislature.
Making smart decisions now will help New Hampshire keep more money in the state and in the pockets of its residents.
Ellen Hawes is a senior analyst at Acadia Center focusing on energy systems, land use and carbon markets. She also leads Acadia Center’s participation in the New Hampshire State Energy Strategy process. Ellen received her Master in Forestry from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.