The Bulletin Board

Liberty asks utilities commission to suspend energy efficiency decision

By: - December 3, 2021 2:34 pm
Scales of justice

Liberty Utilities says the impact of the PUC decision on customers cannot yet be precisely determined but would be significant. (Getty Images)

Liberty Utilities has asked the Public Utilities Commission to suspend an energy efficiency decision the company says would cause “irreparable harm” if implemented.

The utility filed a motion for a stay of order early Friday morning, the latest response to a contentious decision from the utilities commission to reject a triennial energy efficiency plan and instead cut funding for state energy efficiency programs. The decision has prompted legal action from Clean Energy New Hampshire, an advocacy and education nonprofit that announced it would file a lawsuit by Friday.

In its motion (full text below), the utility says the impact of the decision on its customers cannot yet be precisely determined but would be significant. The motion points to $12.7 million the rejected triennial plan would have saved its gas customers. The plan also would have saved Liberty’s electric customers an additional $13.3 million, according to the document.

Now that the utilities commission has rejected that plan and cut funding for energy efficiency, Liberty expects costs for gas customers to increase by $4.4 million in 2022. The company estimates that costs for electric customers will swell by $8.3 million as a result of the decision.

In 2023, costs are projected to continue rising: Liberty says the PUC decision will lead to $7.5 million in costs for gas customers and $12.1 million for electricity customers.

Liberty’s filing says the PUC decision creates practical problems, too, like granting only a few weeks to put together a new energy efficiency plan. The plans are typically developed over many months, with input from technical experts.

“Now, Liberty is being directed to completely re-define its plan in just a few weeks. The development of a new EE plan under these conditions creates risks to its customers that are entirely avoidable,” the motion said.

The utilities commission is responsible for deciding whether to grant Liberty’s motion or deny it. If the decision is suspended, funding for energy efficiency would continue at 2021 levels until a new plan is put in place. It is unclear what that plan would look like, and whether it will come from the Legislature.

If the PUC decision is upheld, Liberty has asked for clarification about whether it can continue to operate its energy efficiency programs in the interim.

DE 20-092 Liberty motion for stay

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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.