The Bulletin Board

Sununu letter supports Department of Energy’s stance on energy efficiency programs

By: - December 14, 2021 1:35 pm
Gov. Sununu at a lectern

Gov. Chris Sununu said “there are legitimate questions about how this order will affect the viability of New Hampshire’s energy efficiency programs.” (Courtesy)

In a letter to Department of Energy Commissioner Jared Chicoine on Tuesday, Gov. Chris Sununu praised the department for raising concerns about the state’s energy efficiency plan.

On Friday, the Department of Energy asked the Public Utilities Commission to either clarify or reconsider a contentious November decision cutting funding for state energy efficiency programs. The department pointed to several problems with the order – such as its rejection of a cost-effectiveness test it had previously endorsed and due process issues for stakeholders.

Sununu commended the motion filed by the Department of Energy, and said he shared concerns that the department and other stakeholders have brought forward about executing the order.

“Given the tight timelines to implement plans with the start of the new year, the resignation of the previous chair, and the pending recusal of a newly confirmed commissioner, there are legitimate questions about how this order will affect the viability of New Hampshire’s energy efficiency programs in the very near future,” Sununu said in the letter.  

The November decision – rejecting a proposed plan to boost funding for energy efficiency – brought the state’s programs to a halt. Energy efficiency contractors say that if the decision is upheld it will lead to massive layoffs in the sector, forcing some to shutter their businesses. Homeowners looking to weatherize their homes before an expensive winter heating season have been put on growing wait lists as the programs remain in flux.

But Sununu also criticized the plan that was proposed and agreed upon by all of the state’s utilities, as well as consumer, environmental and clean energy advocates. He said it would have been “a crushing price hike on our job creators and the economic engine of our economy: NH small businesses.”

He said sharp hikes in system benefits charge rates – a portion of the electric bill used to fund energy efficiency programs – would be a heavy burden for main street businesses “at a time when inflation is running rampant and staffing shortages are making it hard to operate even small family businesses.”

A group of just under 30 businesses sent a letter specifically in support of the triennial energy efficiency plan last February – and the letter points to over 120 businesses that support clean energy principles, including investment in energy efficiency. 

Opposition to the plan came from the Business and Industry Association, which spoke against the burden the plan would place on some of the state’s largest companies. 

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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.