One of New Hampshire’s economic engines is getting a boost with the start of a new energy-efficiency resource standard.

Utilities, state agencies, businesses and advocates all came together this year to develop a new energy-efficiency framework that strengthens our state’s commitment to reducing energy costs and helps keep New Hampshire’s energy dollars from leaving the state economy.

Each year, New Hampshire spends more than $6 billion on energy. Energy efficiency helps us recapture some of those dollars. This makes energy bills more manageable and frees up savings that can be used by New Hampshire’s families and business for other necessities and investments.

The new energy-efficiency standard establishes specific targets for energy savings that utilities must meet. By 2020, New Hampshire will realize cumulative energy savings equal to 3.1 percent of 2014 electric sales and 2.25 percent of 2014 natural gas sales.

Those savings will build upon the utilities’ award-winning “NHSaves” programs that help customers reduce energy by using new technologies and improving buildings. The new framework makes programs more available to lower-income families and also makes a wide range of incentives available to help families, businesses, municipalities and nonprofits take advantage of cost-saving energy efficiency projects.

While those who choose to participate directly in energy-efficiency programs will benefit immediately from lower energy bills, those who don’t choose to become active participants will also benefit. There will be less wear-and-tear on the energy grid, less need to build new power plants and less need to rely on the higher-cost power plants that keep the system running on hot summer days and chilly winter nights.

Beyond achieving cost-effective savings, energy efficiency provides many other benefits to our communities. The contractors who perform building improvements and equipment installations are usually local businesses employing skilled New Hampshire workers. Improving the efficiency of buildings also improves air quality and comfort, giving us safer, healthier and more enjoyable spaces to live, play and work.

The energy-efficiency programs are required to be cost-effective under stringent tests. The Public Utilities Commission, independent evaluators and ISO New England measure and verify the savings these programs offer us on an annual basis. ISO New England, which oversees New England’s electricity grid, not only quantifies energy efficiency results, it counts on those reductions in its regional planning. When we cut costs region-wide through reliable and low-cost efficiency measures, we make sure that New Hampshire energy bills are more manageable as a direct result of energy efficiency.

Thousands of residents and businesses across the state can tell you about the savings they have already seen from past energy-efficiency projects. However, there is more demand for energy efficiency than current programs can meet. These programs are very popular, and as a result they frequently become oversubscribed. This causes projects to be delayed and leaves additional savings on the table.

With the implementation of an energy-efficiency standard, we look forward to working together with families, businesses, legislators and other leaders to complete more efficiency projects and achieve greater energy savings that will benefit all of us here in New Hampshire.

This article was submitted by the settling parties to the NH Energy Efficiency Resource Standard: Eversource Energy; Unitil Energy Systems; Liberty Utilities Corp.; NH Electric Cooperative; NH Legal Assistance for The Way Home; Belknap-Merrimack Community Action Agency; Southern NH Services; Conservation Law Foundation NH; The Jordan Institute; NH Sustainable Energy Association; Acadia Center; TRC Energy Services; NH Rep. Robert Backus, pro se; NH Office of Energy and Planning; NH Department of Environmental Services; and the Office of the Consumer Advocate.