The Bulletin Board

Utilities commission denies motion for rehearing on energy efficiency decision

By: - January 7, 2022 3:45 pm
A man inspects attic insulation

Eric Chabot, an energy auditor for Turn Cycle Solutions in Nashua, inspects attic insulation during a recent audit. The PUC on Friday denied a request for a rehearing on its decision affecting the state’s energy efficiency programs. (Amanda Gokee | New Hampshire Bulletin)

The Public Utilities Commission on Friday denied a motion for rehearing on a contentious energy efficiency decision it issued in November. This comes after the state’s utilities, along with environmental, clean energy, and consumer advocates, asked the commission to reconsider the decision.  

Instead, the commission doubled down on its initial decision, dismissing claims about due process issues and that it didn’t provide proper notice to parties in the case. It also determined that Commissioner Pradip Chattopadhyay would not have to recuse himself from the case, after the consumer advocate asked him not to participate because of previous involvement. And in its order, the commission took issue with the parties’ characterization that its decision would reduce funding for energy efficiency. “The rates established … will result in an increase of $4-$8 million in energy efficiency funding,” the order said, a calculation consumer advocate Don Kreis said depended on “funny math.”

The commission gave the utilities an extension to submit a new energy efficiency program proposal, which is now due on March 31.

“The PUC continues to dig its feet in on its radical and arbitrary decision, and New Hampshire families will pay the price,” said Nick Krakoff, an attorney at the Conservation Law Foundation, in a statement on Friday.

Kreis said he was shocked and dismayed that the commission would stand by the “inadequate” order.

There is now a 30-day period when an appeal can be filed with the state Supreme Court, according to Kreis. He said his office is likely to pursue that legal recourse, unless there is legislative intervention, like the passage of Senate Bill 270, which would put the Energy Efficiency Resource Standard into statute.

On Thursday, the House passed House Bill 549 in a unanimous vote (343-0) – another bill that takes up the issue of funding energy efficiency, using 2020 levels of funding as a base and allowing a modest yearly increase. The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Michael Vose, an Epping Republican, said the bill could be sent to the governor’s desk as early as February or March.

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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.