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Another View: Sen. Bob Giuda - Time for an honest discussion of energy

September 18. 2017 6:11PM

THE COST OF ELECTRICITY continues to be a major problem in New Hampshire. We can’t live without it, and despite “deregulation,” its cost continues to rise. There are several factors that are causing this problem.

Over the last 15 years, we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in the use of oil and coal to produce our electricity, and nuclear power plants throughout the region are gradually being shuttered. These fossil fuel and nuclear plants were once the backbone of our electric grid.

Today’s market is being increasingly driven by competition, with sources that can produce energy cheaper, faster, and cleaner taking the lead in providing power. Natural gas power plants currently produce 40-50 percent of the base load power needed to keep our lights on and the air conditioning running. Not even nuclear power can match the economics of natural gas, currently the least expensive fuel for generating electricity.

The U.S. is experiencing an energy renaissance. Domestic natural gas production is up 53 percent since 2008, lowering energy costs for families, communities and businesses across the country (except for momentary spikes due to natural disasters such as Hurricane Harvey), and cutting emissions as it displaces coal and oil. But unfortunately, most of New Hampshire can’t enjoy these benefits because of an aging energy infrastructure and lack of access to natural gas. In fact, in February we paid the sixth highest retail energy bills in the country, according to the Energy Information Administration.

New Hampshire is a signatory to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a well-intended but misguided regional plan for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI increases energy costs for every household and business in the state, and uses surcharges to our electric bills to incentivize construction of energy sources which in fact don’t reduce greenhouse gases. Why? Because these renewable sources are subject to the vagaries of weather, and thus require keeping the facilities they claim they’ll replace on line for times when weather conditions (calm winds and/or cloudy days) disrupt renewable production. Further, most “green” power projects require manufacturer rebates and government subsidies, also paid by ratepayers, to operate “economically.”

Demand for natural gas peaks during the hottest and coldest days of the year, causing power plants to compete for the natural gas needed to provide power. With inadequate pipelines to deliver it, our power plants are forced to pay exorbitant prices for fuel, including expensive liquefied natural gas from Yemen and Venezuela. The resulting huge spikes in production costs are, again, passed on to consumers.

If we are to reduce energy costs for our families and businesses, it’s time for policymakers to reconsider increasing our access to America’s most reliable and affordable fuel: Natural gas. And it’s time to reconsider our participation in the RGGI scheme that socks ratepayers with utility bill fees up front and taxpayer-funded subsidies at the back end of “clean” energy projects that can’t support themselves.

Then there’s the problem of transmission and distribution costs, but that’s a topic for another day.

Sen. Bob Giuda, R-Warren, represents District 2.

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