The Bulletin Board

Consumer advocate threatens legal action over energy efficiency docket

By: - September 21, 2021 2:00 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)

The state’s consumer advocate has threatened legal action if the Public Utilities Commission doesn’t approve an energy efficiency docket that was supposed to take effect at the start of 2021. The commission chose not to approve the plan following opposition from Republican lawmakers.

After a new commissioner was appointed in May, a September order determined that the record would be reopened so commissioner Dan Goldner could be present and participate in a new hearing, a move the office of the consumer advocate opposed in a motion filed with the Conservation Law Foundation.

“The record in DE 20-092 [the docket number] supports only one result: Approval of the triennial energy efficiency plan presented to the PUC last December. I intend to appeal any other result to the New Hampshire Supreme Court,” said Consumer Advocate Don Kreis in a rehearing motion filed last week.

The motion was supported by Clean Energy New Hampshire, in a letter pointing out the “significant” delays and disruptions that the failure to issue an order has caused for contractors and customers.

“Although CENH understands that a new commissioner may seek clarification of the settlement proposal because he was unable to attend the hearings for DE 20-092, there is already overwhelming evidence in the record that the plan – which is supported by all of the docket parties – is just and reasonable, serves the public interest, is cost-effective, and is consistent with Order 25,932,” said the letter signed by Elijah D. Emerson on behalf of Clean Energy New Hampshire.

And the state’s utilities also asked the commission to clarify or reconsider the order, raising due process concerns in a separate motion for reconsideration that was also filed last week.

It remains unclear why the commission has not approved the plan, which was agreed upon by a wide range of groups that were involved in putting it together, including the state’s utilities, environmental protection groups, and clean energy advocates. At a meeting of the Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Energy Board last month, state Department of Environmental Services Assistant Commissioner Mark Sanborn suggested it may be due to the cost to the business community.

“[Sanborn] noted, there is clearly a reason why the PUC is not moving forward with an order and the EESE Board needs to understand why. A reason may be that the EERS [energy efficiency resource standard] targets are too aggressive and the cost to the business community – especially to large companies and manufacturing – is too high, especially in a state where energy costs are already high,” according to the meeting minutes.

In an email, Kreis said that he’s waiting to see the commission’s response to the rehearing motion before launching an appeal.

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s energy and environment reporter. She 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.