Is Renewable Energy Procurement Still An Option For New Hampshire?

When Governor Sununu vetoed SB 167—a bill that would have created a commission to study renewable energy procurements in New Hampshire—it seemed that a renewable energy procurement was no longer a viable option for New Hampshire. However, recent events signal that a renewable energy procurement might still be an option for New Hampshire.

What is a renewable energy procurement?

As states grapple with how to address climate change, one solution that has emerged is a mandate to increase the quantity of renewable energy being purchased by the state’s utility consumers.  Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut have all passed legislation requiring their electric distribution companies to seek procurements of renewable energy. This has had regional impacts—including direct impacts on New Hampshire.  For example, the proposed Northern Pass Transmission Line was intended to bring power from Hydro-Quebec to Massachusetts to partially fulfill Massachusetts’ procurement requirement.   Because that project was denied a certificate of site and facility by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee, a new transmission line going through Maine is now proposed to replace Northern Pass. Beyond transmission projects, developers across New England have also proposed new generation projects to satisfy these procurements, including the proposed solar facility in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire. Although often discussed in concert with other policies, renewable energy procurements are distinct from other energy policies, such as renewable portfolio standards, renewable energy credits, the regional greenhouse gas initiative (RGGI), or net metering.

Why might New Hampshire’s renewable energy procurement be an option again?

The first reason is the Energy Reform and Climate Action Package for 2020, which the New Hampshire Senate Democrats recently unveiled. Included in that package is a bona fide commitment to increasing renewable energy development and usage at various scales, including a doubling down on many policies vetoed by Governor Sununu, i.e.,  increasing the net metering cap and promoting new solar development. Also introduced was the Granite State Ratepayer Protection Act of 2020, sponsored by Senate Majority leader, and Democratic candidate for Governor, Dan Feltes, which directly references the Governor’s veto of SB 167.

Another strong signal that New Hampshire may be poised to adopt a renewable energy procurement requirement is the Governor’s apparent embrace of offshore wind development. At the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) kick-off of the regional Intergovernmental Task Force, Governor Sununu extolled the potential benefits of offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine. The administration, at the task force meeting and in other comments, highlighted that it views offshore wind as a preferred alternative to other renewable energy generation options, like solar and on-shore wind. The Commissioner of the Department of Business and Economic Affairs, Taylor Caswell, even spoke at a recent event sponsored by the Environmental Business Council of New England about the possibility of a New Hampshire procurement that would include, if not be limited to, offshore wind.

As a result, where a renewable energy procurement for New Hampshire seemed off the table after the Governor vetoed SB 167 last summer, it seems possible that there might be a new opportunity for renewable energy procurement. Whether New Hampshire follows through with a legislative procurement, and whether that procurement is exclusively for offshore wind remains to be seen.

About the Author: Nat Morse

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