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Sununu's grilling: One councilor does his job

January 16. 2014 10:58PM

New Hampshire has one executive councilor — exactly one — who knows what the job of an executive councilor is. Not even the governor knows, which she proved on Tuesday.

On that day, the council considered a $1.2 million renewable energy grant for a solar project in Peterborough. The only one to aggressively question the plan’s financing was District 3 Councilor Chris Sununu.

The proposal from Water Street Solar of Lowell, Mass., is to build the state’s largest solar panel array near Peterborough’s wastewater treatment plant. The $2.6 million project would be nearly half-funded by the $1.2 million state grant, which would come from the state’s Renewable Energy Fund.

That fund is filled with money paid by New Hampshire utility companies when they don’t meet renewable energy targets for a given year. Ratepayers pay more for their electricity so the state can collect these funds and dole them out to favored projects. The Executive Council approves the grants.

Sununu grilled the Water Street Solar official who came to ask for the grant. He questioned the project’s stated $240,000 in savings to Peterborough over 20 years. After the council meeting, a representative of Water Street Solar told our reporter that Peterborough might not recognize the projected savings. The town is guaranteed a rate of 8 cents per kilowatt hour for the solar power, which is a penny less than the average rate it pays now. But when the market rate slips below 8 cents, Peterborough will be contractually obligated to pay more than the market rate. It could wind up losing money — to a company subsidized with $1.2 million in New Hampshire ratepayer money.

Sununu’s assertiveness on behalf of New Hampshire electricity ratepayers prompted Gov. Maggie Hassan to remark, “I think it’s important to address the people who come here to provide us with information in as supportive a way as possible.”

No, governor, supporting people who come to ask for state money is not the Executive Council’s job. Protecting the people of New Hampshire by scrutinizing and questioning every proposed contract is the Executive Council’s job.

The people should be alarmed that the governor and the three Democrats on the Council think it is their job to rubber-stamp these renewable energy contracts that the people are funding involuntarily.

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