Cities and towns, businesses and homeowners, when it comes to the future of energy for our state, they all want the same thing: a cleaner, New Hampshire-based energy economy.
In many ways, the prospect is a no-brainer. Clean energy creates local jobs and boosts domestic economies by supporting a growing workforce of high-skilled and high-paid contractors, electricians, installers, financiers, and other professions. Clean energy reduces air pollutant emissions, including carbon dioxide, and lessens the impacts of climate change.
But while the economic and environmental benefits are readily apparent, there is another critical benefit clean energy provides that is perhaps less well understood.
If you pay attention to energy media in the northeast, you may be aware that the high cost of electricity is an ongoing challenge for our region. Incumbent energy players scarcely miss an opportunity to remind us that New Hampshire suffers some of the highest electric rates in the country. What generally gets left out of this narrative is the somewhat ironic cause of the crisis, namely, the steadily increasing in the cost of utility-owned transmission and distribution systems.
If only there were some suite of tools energy users could employ to reduce the ever-growing cost of monopoly poles and wires… If only there were technologies that could be deployed in a distributed fashion to reduce system peaks, and reduce overall energy flowing from centralized generation to the point of consumption…
According to the regional grid operator ISO New England, energy efficiency and distributed solar provide exactly this benefit. ISO-NE projects that by 2027, solar and efficiency will have reduced summer peak demand by 6,500 megawatts and avoided 40,000 gigawatt-hours of annual energy use. By lowering peak demand and annual energy consumption, efficiency and solar offset the need for massive investments in traditional energy infrastructure, thus saving money for all ratepayers.
A separate analysis conducted by Synapse Energy Economics had similar findings. During the weeklong heat wave of July 2018, distributed solar saved New England ratepayers more than $20 million dollars by reducing total demand for energy and by reducing wholesale energy prices.
The collective benefits of clean energy are already being demonstrated across the system. As markets for distributed energy technologies continue to develop, policy innovations like time-of-use rates can be used to more precisely guide the deployment of resources like solar and energy storage to maximize benefit for both the individual customer, and electric grid as a whole.
It is true that New Hampshire and its neighbors face some of the highest energy costs in the country. But the solution has become readily available. The solution to high energy costs, both for the individual energy user and for the collective ratepayers, is a clean, distributed, New Hampshire-based energy economy.