In the past two weeks, New Hampshire residents learned that most of our electricity
bills will skyrocket in August. For Eversource’s residential customers, the rate they
pay kilowatt-hour will rise from 19 cents to more than 32 cents: 22 cents for the
energy, and another 8 cents to deliver it. With this rate, New Hampshire customers
will nearly have the highest electricity rates in the United States: higher than
Alaska, where most customers pay about 22 cents, and lower only than Hawaii.
Needless to say, if your state is paying nearly as much for energy than a string of
isolated atolls thousands of miles from shore, something has to change.
We are now reaping what we have sowed. Over the past 20 years, we have
massively built out natural gas fired power plants in New England, from 15 percent
of generation in 2000 to 53 percent in 2021. Natural gas prices set our electricity
prices, and pipeline gas in New England is currently two to three times more
expensive than the same time last year.
This problem is not going away anytime soon. While it seems to us that prices have
gone through the stratosphere, gas is currently fetching ten times more in Europe.
American producers are responding to this powerful price signal to send their
product overseas. And with the European Union’s newfound resolve to wean
themselves off Russian gas, even more American gas will not be burned at home.
If you’re hoping that American production will rise again, don’t be so sure. From
2010 to 2018, the low price of gas in the US meant that the American fracking
industry lost a cumulative $181 billion dollars, which led the former CEO of the
nation’s largest gas producer to call the shale revolution “an unmitigated disaster”
for investors. According to a survey done by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, 60
percent of shale executives said they weren’t increasing drilling activity because
Finally, anyone suggesting that the solution to expensive natural gas is more
pipelines to bring in more natural gas has a bridge to sell. Unlike the gas price
spikes we experienced in the winters of 2012 through 2018, this latest increase is
more about fuel prices and less about pipeline capacity. In part thanks to warm
temperatures, on only a few days this winter did our pipelines approach capacity.
Moreover, other states have implemented policies that seek to reduce gas demand
and the few peak winter days where capacity is a problem, policies that save New
Hampshire residents money.
In other words, it’s not the infrastructure. The era of cheap American gas is simply
There are solutions, but—like our two-decade gas-building binge—they will take
time. As such, perhaps it's no surprise that politicians from both parties are looking
for policy solutions that can be implemented before the next election, like gas-tax
holidays or one-time electric bill credits.
But the truth is, as Robert Frost wrote, I can see no way out but through. We need
to build ourselves out of this crisis.
We at Clean Energy New Hampshire have a whole package of technologies we
believe will lower the amount of money consumers spend on energy every year:
solar on every roof, insulation in every attic, a smart meter and smart appliances
connected to the grid, heat pumps outside, and an electric car in every garage. This
is the life our family is living, and I’m happy to show anyone who asks the
spreadsheet of our energy costs. In this price environment these investments pay
back even faster, which means this is where the markets will take us eventually.
However, if we want to get there faster there is a suite of policies that help families
choose each of these technologies, if we have the courage to adopt them.
But since we’re laser focused energy rates right now, let’s talk about how to use
clean energy to lower them.
In Maine last year, following a competitive bidding process, utilities awarded long-
term contracts to six large-scale renewable energy projects. Those projects will
deliver energy to residents of the Pine Tree state for between 3 and 4 cents per
kilowatt hour. Compare that to the 22 cents that Eversource and Liberty got when
they went to the gas-dominated market in these past two weeks.
New Hampshire lawmakers could authorize our utilities to issue a similar request for
proposals in the next legislative session, or sooner if they have the courage.
Procurement for long-term contracts with renewable energy providers is
increasingly the norm. In Texas—in the wake of the blackouts caused by the
freezing up of their natural gas system, and this year’s heat wave in which
hundreds of megawatts of renewable energy contracts. Competitive solicitations are
not a subsidy, they are simply a different financing arrangement that recognizes
that renewable energy projects have free fuel and high capital costs and require
different market structures than fossil fueled power plants.
The truth is that nearly no-one believes natural gas is our future. Governor Sununu
acknowledged in his press conference on Wednesday, stating that we are in the
midst of a transition to renewable energy. A glance at the queue of power
generation projects proposed in New England tells the story. In 2017, 48 percent of
the proposed capacity was gas, and in 2022 only 3 percent was. Meanwhile, wind,
solar, and battery storage represent 95 percent of what’s proposed.
The only question is whether the lower energy rates that result from those projects
will flow to other New England states or if we’ll really do something to help New