In the past few weeks, the cost of gas, coal, and electricity has increased to levels not seen in decades. A number of things have contributed to these increases. The Covid-19 crisis last year’s early months saw a historic decline in global energy consumption, which in turn drove many fuel prices to long-term lows. However, since then, they have sharply recovered, primarily as a result of an extraordinarily quick worldwide economic recovery (this year is on track to see the fastest post-recession growth in 80 years), a long and chilly winter in the Northern Hemisphere, as well as a weaker-than-expected rise in supply.
Last week, the executive council questioned Liberty Utilities’ request to raise electricity rates by nearly 50% in response to the record rises in energy prices.
The Public Utilities Commission, who will probably grant the request, received a letter from them warning them.
Given the state’s and the region’s reliance on fossil fuels such as natural gas, which is utilized to heat and power homes, the PUC may not be able to do much at this time to reduce costs. Also contributing to climate change is the use of fossil fuels.
Don Kreis, a consumer advocate, said the state should decrease its dependence on oil given the serious effects on ratepayers of these price increases. Nevertheless, despite pressure from environmental and clean energy advocates, those efforts failed during the most recent legislative session.
While defending existing policies like energy efficiency as well as net metering, they advocated against policies which would limit the growth of renewable energy. But they claimed that real advancement, the kind that would reduce costs and stop climate change, was frequently lacking.
Kelly Buchanan, regulatory affairs director for Clean Energy New Hampshire, said it was unfortunate that this year’s progress wasn’t as great as expected.
The session was largely about playing defense, according to Jim O’Brien, who is the external affairs director at the New Hampshire Nature Conservancy, who also agreed that fighting myths about the underlying science of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change was a major component of that defense.
In response to the current gas price, O’Brien remarked, “I hope we as a state start thinking about alternatives like energy efficiency, as well as how do we remove that dependence on fossil fuels and natural gas by ushering in renewable energy.”
Rep. Michael Harrington, a Strafford Republican, supports a different strategy that involves expanding fracking and constructing new gas pipelines in the state.
Since only small adjustments can be implemented at the state level, he thinks that high energy prices are a national issue that is better addressed through national policies. The state level, he said, “cannot really do much about (rising energy prices).” Increasing drilling and fracking will make it simpler to install pipelines rather than more difficult. Legislative action on energy efficiency, according to Harrington, was a success.