Thursday, April 26, 2007

New Hampshire Senate Unanimously Passes Renewable Energy Standard

The bill now heads to the governor's desk to be signed into law.

[From Renewable Energy]

After years of hard work from advocacy groups, utilities and legislators, New Hampshire finally passed a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) Thursday, which will require state utilities to generate 25 percent of electricity from renewable resources by 2025.

The RPS passed the Senate unanimously, following an overwhelming victory in the House on April 5th. When Governor John Lynch signs the bill in the coming weeks, New Hampshire will become the 22nd state in the U.S. to pass such a standard.

"Clearly there's a commitment now in the state to move ahead with renewable energy," said Senate Energy Committee Chair Martha Fuller Clark. "We've been able to learn from all of the other states, and I believe put together an excellent piece of legislation that will stimulate economic development as well as renewable energy development."

New Hampshire currently has a rated renewable energy generation capacity of 14% of total electricity. Actual generation is more like 8-10%, depending on how much electricity is exported to neighboring states. The RPS will increase that generation by about 15% in the next 18 years.

The new standard will support technologies such as biomass, hydro, wind, solar and geothermal. The legislation also allows for a review of the standard so that the state can adjust "carve-outs" for various technologies if needed.

"All of us had our own particular thing that we wanted in [the RPS] and it really was like herding cats, getting all of us to realize that we just had to compromise," said Carolyn Demorest, Legislative Coordinator for the New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association. "But this is a great bill and there will be room in the future do adjust it if needed."

The RPS has been a long time in passing. Similar bills have been introduced over the years, but there wasn't enough support to get them through either chamber of Congress. New Hampshire has the largest legislature in the country besides the U.S. Congress, so there were many competing interests involved in the process.

"It took time and a lot of listening, and I have to credit all the legislators and stakeholders who knew they wouldn't get everything they wanted, but they wanted to get a good bill that's balanced," said Joanne Morin, Technical Programs Manager at the NH Department of Environmental Services. Morin worked for over 5 years to get the RPS passed.

"We're very excited about this. We really felt that everyone who had a say was able to make a compromise that would benefit as many as possible and be good for New Hampshire," Morin said.

New Hampshire is the last state in New England to pass a RPS. 12 other states around the country are considering passing similar legislation. According to Senator Fuller Clark, the RPS represents a broader acceptance of renewable energy and an understanding of the serious environmental and economic problems associated with climate change.

"All of these things have converged together at a time when we're also seeing the marketplace invest in renewable energy in a way that they never have before. So I just think the stars lined up," she said.

New Hampshire is one of several states pursuing new Renewable Energy Standard policies this year, and several more are expanding existing successful standards. See this previous post for more on state and federal RES policy activity this year.

I hope to announce the passage of a new 25% by 2025 RES in Oregon sometime next week. The Oregon RES bill passed the Senate 20-10 a couple weeks ago and should head to the House floor next week where passage is expected. Stay tuned...

[Image credit: State of New Hampshire]

No comments: