State’s utilities join with advocates to request reconsideration of PUC energy efficiency order

By: - December 10, 2021 5:14 pm
Power lines with trees in the background

The utilities are still facing a Dec. 15 deadline to submit revised energy efficiency plans, based on the diminished funding levels announced in November. (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)

A broad coalition formally requested on Friday that the Public Utilities Commission reconsider its recent decision to cut funding for state energy efficiency programs over the next two years and that the decision – which they said would cause irreparable harm – be suspended in the meantime.

All of the state’s electric and gas utilities, as well as clean energy and environmental advocates and the state’s largest community action agency, made the request together in a joint filing. (The full text is included below.)

The motion filed on Friday is a legally required first step for filing an appeal with the New Hampshire Supreme Court. 

The Nov. 12 decision to cut funding for state energy efficiency programs has drawn criticism – and a lawsuit filed by the nonprofit Clean Energy New Hampshire, energy contractors, the Town of Hanover, and the state’s housing authorities.

“People are being put out of work or deprived of energy saving opportunities just as the cold winter sets in,” said Consumer Advocate Don Kreis in an email announcing Friday’s joint filing. Kreis said he was optimistic the utilities commission will take back its mistakes.

The filing on Friday also contained a motion requesting that the commission ask Gov. Chris Sununu to appoint special commissioners, citing New Hampshire law that requires at least two commissioners to sign off on orders out of the agency. Those special commissioners would have to be approved by the Executive Council, a process that could take weeks, “if not months,” according to Kreis.

The parties requested a full three-member commission to weigh in on the motion for rehearing “and all other matters in this docket.” A three-member commission would avoid a potential deadlock if there were only two commissioners who were in disagreement. And the request points to New Hampshire law requiring that at least one of the commissioners is a lawyer licensed to practice in the state.   

“The Order changed the previously-approved framework for energy efficiency plans without notice, without giving the Moving Parties the opportunity to demonstrate the merits of that framework, without being anchored to evidence in the record, and without regard to the impact such dramatic and sudden changes will have on the NH Utilities, utility customers, energy efficiency contractors and vendors, and other stakeholders,” reads the 43-page motion for rehearing.

The utilities are still facing a Dec. 15 deadline to submit revised energy efficiency plans, based on the diminished funding levels announced in November. 

“New Hampshire’s energy efficiency programs have demonstrated a strong track record of delivering cost-effective benefits to customers, people, and businesses across New Hampshire, and we are committed to ensuring that these solutions are available and accessible to all of our customers,” William Hinkle, a spokesperson for Eversource, said in a statement about the filing. “We greatly respect the fundamental role the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission plays in setting policy and overseeing these programs and have respectfully requested rehearing, clarification, and stay because the energy efficiency programs, along with New Hampshire residents and businesses, are facing real and immediate harms.”

DE 20-092 Joint Motion for Full Commission and Special Commissioner(s)
DE 20-092 Joint motion for rehearing clarification stay of order 26553

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee reported on energy and environment for New Hampshire Bulletin. She also previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.