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  • Employee Q&A: Meet Katrin

    What interested you in working at Clean Energy NH? I am 100% on board with the mission. Then I met the team and how could I want to work anywhere else? What were you up to prior to working at the organization? I was (and am currently) on the Select Board in Lee, NH, the Energy Committee, and Community Power Committee. I have worked on many projects from helping build our new Middle School to trying to help build a new Library and Town Municipal Building. I have raised two incredible kids. Spent between 20-40 hours a week volunteering with so many wonderful organizations and boards. I worked in Retail Sales for over a decade. Before that I got my BS in Wildlife Management from the University of NH. Why did you decide to work in the clean energy industry? I am passionate about many things, but none of them matter if we don’t have a safe and healthy planet to live on. Clean energy is the only way we accomplish that goal. Describe your position in more detail. Who will you be working with and what will you be doing? I will be working with municipalities, school districts, and energy champions to help with energy related projects. Anything from weatherizing buildings, to installing solar arrays, to helping assist with Community Power. I will help find funding sources and answer questions. Hopefully I will help encourage members of the communities I work with to step into leadership positions and help with policy changes that bring about even more potential clean energy and energy saving possibilities. What aspect of your job excites you most? Why? Meeting members of the communities we serve. Every town is filled with so much potential to create the change we want to see. I am looking forward to helping them with the projects they want to work on and learning from them as well. What advice would you give to your younger self? Nobody is perfect and we are all just doing our best. Be kind to yourself. Take that job you were offered that seemed so far from your highly focused goals, because it’s all going to change anyway, and that chance will never come again. What do you like to do when you aren’t working? I love birds! I love to watch birds, plant gardens for birds, and to paint them (on paper, I don’t put paint on birds, they wouldn’t like that). I love to do projects around the house. I enjoy hiking, cross country skiing, and dancing. Currently I have repainted 2/3rds of my home. I can’t wait to finish! A typical weekend for me is… No such thing. My weekends are like snowflakes, not one the same. What’s on your bucket list? My husband and I want to sail around the world. We would love to help bring renewable energy to communities and help repair hurricane damaged boats. We both love fixing things! If you could choose anyone to play you in a movie, who would it be? Everyone says I am Leslie Knope, so Amy Poehler. Tell us one thing most people don’t know about you. That I always win at monopoly. ALWAYS. Fun Facts: Coffee or Tea? And how do you take it? Tea. I prefer Assam. I am a total tea snob. I like half and half and sugar. No day is okay without my morning tea. Want me to talk for a long time, ask me about tea. Favorite NH Restaurant: I love any place that cooks for me and does the dishes! Favorite Musician/Band/Music genre: I haven’t had control of the music in my home or car in 18 years. I’ll let you know when I find out! Favorite Recreational Activity: Bird Watching Favorite Holiday: Thanksgiving. Friends and Family. Warm cozy house. I don’t have to cook again for 4 days!

  • YPiE Spotlight: Meet Mercedes Olster

    Name: Mercedes Olster Title: Operations and Strategy Specialist Employer: Enel North America City/Town of Residence: Amherst, NH Why did you decide to work in the clean energy industry? My MBA program really got me interested in the industry. What interested you in working at your current employer? Enel has a great sustainability mission woven into everything they do. It really grabbed my attention when I was applying. I learned about Enel X through a case study in grad school but when I found Enel Green Power, I decided that was more in line with what I wanted to do for a career. Describe the work you do in more detail. My role is similar to that of a Chief of Staff. I support the Head of Engineering and Construction for US, Canada, and Mexico. I am responsible for tackling projects that he doesn't have the time to follow but would like completed. I am also responsible to help prepare any communications he may need to deliver and keep a pulse on the day-to-day activities of the organization. I work closely with Enel's leadership team to accomplish these requests and also bring their concerns forward. What aspect of your job excites you most? Why? I am most excited to learn why the business makes the decisions it does and to get to see what an executive does on the day-to-day. What makes you hopeful about the clean energy transition in New Hampshire? There is a lot of attention on the energy transition in NH and policies are starting to change to favor clean energy. It's an exciting time to watch the change happening. What do you believe is the most pressing challenge that lies ahead for the clean energy industry in the state? I think that there is difficulty in policy that we might be able to get around (like the 2MW cap on solar installs.) Additionally, lack of workforce is going to be a big challenge. We are close to Massachusetts who pays significantly higher wages which is something we will always have to compete with. What interested you most about being part of YPiE? I am always looking for ways to get involved and dive further into the energy community. To me, networking is one of the most important tools that a professional has. Getting to know more people and understand different parts of the industry will only make me better at my job. What advice would you give to someone that is new to the industry or fresh out of college? Find a company that you align with and will be happy to work at, and don't give up if you aren't hired right away. Keep applying. Network and build relationships with as many professionals in the industry as you can like Young Professionals in Energy (YPiE), Women of Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy (WRISE), Women's Energy Network (WEN) etc. and always be open to learning. A typical weekend for me is… Hanging out with my friends, family, and of course my pets. What’s on your bucket list? Travel to Europe. Tell us one thing most people don’t know about you. I'm a huge introvert.

  • YPiE Spotlight: Meet Matthew Doubleday

    Name: Matthew Doubleday Title: Director of Interconnection Employer: ReWild Renewables City/Town of Residence: Portsmouth, NH Why did you decide to work in the clean energy industry? I decided to work in the renewable energy field as I am driven by the threats of climate change and the environmental damage done by burning fossil fuels to power our lives. I have a strong desire to contribute to the growth of renewable energy to replace fossil fuel generation and found that working with this team was the best way to contribute to the growth of solar in the Northeast. What interested you in working at your current employer? I've worked with part of this current team for over 8 years and initially I was interested by the type of projects the company was working on, the entrepreneurial nature of the organization, and the sense of camaraderie that existed within the team. While the type of projects has changed over time, all of this otherwise still provides the same level of interest and excitement to me today. Describe the work you do in more detail. My main responsibility is to bring our projects through the utility interconnection process as quickly and cost-effectively as possible so they can reach commercial operation on schedule. We have projects in many stages of the interconnection process and what the project needs each day or week depends on its current stage and where it may be going next. Some projects are in the pre-application phase and we attempt to understand the likelihood of a viable interconnection based on the existing generation in the area, the substation capacity, and local peak and minimum loads. Other projects are further along and may have had 'System Impact Studies' completed, so the utility has reviewed our project, told us the work they need to do to accommodate our project, including the equipment that needs to be upgraded or installed, and have given us a price for that work. At this point the information provided by the utility factors into a decision for the project on proceeding forward to construction, reducing the project size to eliminate some upgrades, or cancelling the project altogether if the results are unfavorable enough. We hope the latter happens infrequently but it unfortunately does happen. And finally, other projects are in the construction phase so we have made a decision to move forward, paid the utility, are working with them on their design including their pole locations on the project site, working on easements and rights of way, and are discussing their schedule for any significant upgrades like a line rebuild or a substation transformer upgrade. This final stage is key to getting the projects online on schedule. If we know a project has significant upgrades we will do our best to pay the utility early so they can order long lead time items and put us in line in their construction queue. What aspect of your job excites you most? Why? The System Impact Study phase is quite interesting to me. Receiving the results of studies and making adjustments so a project could proceed without burdensome upgrade costs is key to a project's success. We always want to build a larger project but if a project can reduce its size by 10% and save 40% on interconnection it is a worthwhile trade-off. I also work on policy and, along with other companies and trade groups, advocate for making improvements to the interconnection process. I find that work incredibly interesting and necessary. What makes you hopeful about the clean energy transition in New Hampshire? We have a lot to learn from the other states around us, which I think is good. To use what I know, every other state in New England has had more solar energy installed than New Hampshire and all of them have had successful programs that create clear regulations and policies for projects to be successful. I think we can learn a lot from our neighboring states and create a successful clean energy program in New Hampshire that provides fair incentives for producing renewable energy and provides certainty around development so long term investments can be made and the policies can be relied upon. What do you believe is the most pressing challenge that lies ahead for the clean energy industry in the state? Interconnection. Not a shocking answer given my role. We need the process to move much more quickly, from the application stage to the study to construction and commissioning. We also certainly need more transmission everywhere so that we can move clean power over long distances from areas where it can be generated to areas where it needs to be used. And finally, the way that projects pay for interconnection needs to change. When a substation transformer is replaced or several miles are rebuilt, the project that triggered those upgrades is not the only beneficiary but it is required to pay for all of that work. Other projects coming after it will benefit, the ratepayers will benefit through better reliability and fewer outages, the utility will benefit in the same manner, and the state will benefit in reaching its renewable energy goals on time. In many cases those upgrades are needed before the project came along, the project just happened to be the straw that broke the camel's back. Resolving many of these challenges with interconnection will create a path for more renewable energy to be installed in a cost effective manner. What interested you most about being part of YPiE? We're all learning so being able to share ideas, news, successes and failures with like-minded young individuals working in this space is really valuable for me. What advice would you give to someone that is new to the industry or fresh out of college? Build out your network and find new ways to learn about the industry. I studied accounting so I never knew anything about solar let alone interconnection. But I found that using podcasts on industry topics (the Energy Gang), news stories from sources like Utility Dive, and informational materials from industry trade groups (in solar - SEIA, CCSA, NECEC, CENH) was incredibly helpful to learning more about the industry and has allowed me to have success in my role. A typical weekend for me is… Moving outside in any capacity. Ideally into the mountains. What’s on your bucket list? Some sort of bike-packing adventure. Tell us one thing most people don’t know about you. I'm a huge introvert. Fun Facts: I like coffee (black) but I do love green and herbal tea as well My favorite restaurant is Ceres Bakery in Portsmouth My favorite musician is Gregory Alan Isakov is my favorite artist. I also enjoy 90s hip hop, Celtic/folk, and sea shanties My favorite activity is rail running anywhere, but particularly in the White Mountains

  • Resolutions to Save Money and Make the World Safer

    As we start the New Year, trying to put the Pandemic and its disruptions behind us, we’re faced with Putin’s war fueling inflation. The US and others are supplying Europe’s needs which raises prices, so don’t expect much relief from high heating & electricity costs anytime soon. As an energy efficiency and solar specialist, I see real opportunities to save money and increase our resilience in the face of energy inflation and insecurity. I’ve been harvesting solar energy for decades, the up-front investment is paid back in savings every month and just keeps on providing free, local energy for years. In the face of the mounting threats from a warming planet it is one of the valuable tools to reduce the pollution from burning fossil fuels. But first, anyone who buys energy should do an assessment of how much energy you are using in your buildings and vehicles. That’s where most of the costs are under our control. You can compare the numbers to comparable buildings (using Energy Star tools) and class of vehicle to prioritize improvements. Clean Energy NH offers a handy Energy Savings Toolkit to help renters, homeowners and business owners respond to high energy prices while ‘NHSaves’ provides incentives. Consider these savings opportunities: Get an energy assessment - To understand the energy use of your building, schedule at least a Level 1, walk-through energy audit to identify obvious opportunities. A more thorough, Level 2 audit will provide a detailed analysis and a plan. Save with no & low-cost energy options - Turn off lights, adjust thermostats (especially when no one’s awake and using the space), keep tires inflated and don’t idle unless it’s essential. Take advantage of low-cost, high return options - Lighting (switch to LEDs), caulk and weatherstrip gaps and leaks. Consider window insulating treatments - simple interior inserts up to tracked insulating shades. Insulation - Start with the attic, an investment that pays back very quickly, followed by the basement. Think ABC for insulating priorities - Attic, Basement, Center (walls). When you’re ready to replace an appliance insist on Energy Star and get off dirty fuels by going electric. Heat pump water heaters, heat pumps and induction stoves save money, are eligible for incentives, and reduce indoor air pollution. Electric vehicles cost much less to own and operate. As they become more available and affordable, this is better technology that’s three times more energy efficient. Transportation is our largest source of greenhouse gasses so this is a win - win. Solar electric (or PV) is also becoming more affordable and as community solar emerges, you can access clean PV power that’s not on your property. The Inflation Reduction Act helps with these investments and includes many made in America clauses. These are exciting and rewarding solutions that you can pursue. Meaningful individual actions are valuable but we need significant collective actions to drawdown carbon pollution because time is running out. The Pentagon calls climate change a threat multiplier that increases the risks to agriculture, energy, health, security, buildings, infrastructure and countless species. Volatile, fossil fuels make our planet warmer which is increasing sea levels, storms, droughts and migrations. We have a massive market failure; we’re dumping billions of tons of very dangerous greenhouse gasses into our atmosphere for free! Let’s start by taxing what we burn not what we earn and encourage American entrepreneurs to accelerate the shift to cleaner energy. The bipartisan Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act puts a price on carbon and gives the cash back to households as dividends. It puts the money collected into every household budget and significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. This bill is an effective, efficient, equitable and achievable major step. To support it locally, go to carboncashback.org for more information. Isn’t a safer and more secure world for our children and countless species worth making and keeping resolutions to draw down greenhouse gasses and save money? ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Kondos has been harvesting solar energy for decades and for the last one has been working on solutions to the climate crisis with Clean Energy NH, the Monadnock Sustainability Hub, Home-Efficiency Resources and Monadnock Citizens Climate Lobby.

  • Employee Q&A: Meet Anna Li

    What interested you in working at Clean Energy NH? I was in a transitional period in my life and a former colleague of mine referred me to Clean Energy NH. Considering my interest in nature and our environment and love for health and wellness, I felt Clean Energy NH’s mission and drive aligned so well with my beliefs and passions. What were you up to prior to working at the organization? Prior to working at the organization, I worked at a local Co-Op in Burlington, Vermont as a Health and Wellness Associate. Prior to that, I worked at a local college as an Administrative Assistant for 4 years. Why did you decide to work in the clean energy industry? I’ve always loved learning about nature and our environment. Living in Vermont for the past seven months has truly inspired me to want to take action and do more for our planet and community. Learning about Clean Energy NH's commitment to the state and the planet really inspired me - it felt like it was the perfect fit for me. Describe your position in more detail. Who will you be working with and what will you be doing? In my role at Clean Energy NH, I will be assisting the team with day to day operations, provide support for events, marketing, and be the first point of contact for initial inquiries for Clean Energy NH. I will be working most closely with Beth San Soucie, Deputy Director, as well as supporting all team members on an as needed basis. What advice would you give to your younger self? I have so much advice I would tell my younger self. The most important thing would be, be present and live in the moment. Don’t worry about the past because you can’t change anything now and don’t worry about the future because what is meant to be, will be. What do you like to do when you aren’t working? Spend time with family and friends, cook and bake, and spend time outside exploring new places. A typical weekend for me is… Rest, rejuvenate, and relax. I also love to try new restaurants with friends and family. What’s on your bucket list? Travel to all 50 states in US and Europe and sky dive. If you could choose anyone to play you in a movie, who would it be? Nora Lum “Awkwafina” Tell us one thing most people don’t know about you. I’m ambidextrous with most things. Fun Facts: Coffee or Tea? And how do you take it? Coffee 100%! I love a hot latte with almond milk with caramel or a shot of maple syrup. Favorite NH Restaurant: Moritomo, El Rincon Zacatecano Taqueria, and Thai Food Connection Favorite Musician/Band/Music genre: I love all types of music but I’d say my top three favorites are, Folk/Indie, Country, and Pop/R&B. Favorite Recreational Activity: Taking walks outside and meditation. Favorite Holiday: Christmas.

  • YPiE Spotlight: Laura Samoisette

    Name: Laura Samoisette City/Town of Residence: Center Barnstead Employer: Resilient Buildings Group Title: High Performance Buildings Project Manager Why did you decide to work in the clean energy industry? It was actually by chance; I was mostly interested in design work coming out of school such as smart city planning or biophilic design. A family friend told me about my current employer, who was helping her company receive energy efficiency rebates, and she had a great experience with them. I didn't know of many sustainability focused companies at the time, so I explored their website and ended up relating to their mission and vision. What interested you in working at your current employer? On the Resilient Buildings Group (RBG) website there was a short section about the company's mission which included improving human-comfort in the built environment, reducing emissions and contributing to large-scale solutions for more sustainable world. Although their services didn't align perfectly with what I had envisioned myself doing in the future, their goals aligned with my passions. I'm really happy that I put aside what I thought I wanted, to give a different side of the sustainability industry a shot. Describe the work you do in more detail. I'm lucky to have a wide variety of work as part of my role as project manager of the High-Performance Division. On a normal day I'm reviewing architectural drawings for LEED or WELL compliance. Perhaps conducting an energy charrette with a project team whose goals are to reduce operational energy costs or offset energy consumption with a solar array. Along the way I'm always checking in on my colleague's project status, creating contracts, or even making marketing materials. A lot of my work relates to energy efficiency incentives or state funding in some way. The NHSaves program is a great motivator for clients to make energy efficiency a high priority in their building design and programming. It's always a treat when the owner or a consultant is excited about the program offerings, and we get to review in-depth the design scenario with the best energy savings! What aspect of your job excites you most? Why? Our new biophilic design service excited me most, partly because I am leading the service from the ground up and partly because it combines aesthetic design with environmental conservation. So often people get caught up in the look of a material and not the environmental benefit. Now I get to advocate for having both. Overall, I think it's the freedom I have in this position to make a difference in whatever way is going to be impactful. It all comes back to the RBG mission. What makes you hopeful about the clean energy transition in New Hampshire? I get to work with passionate people every day, which gives me hope that we can make big steps to speeding up the clean energy transition if we can increase the number of the passionate people. For those not in the industry, I could understand having a pessimistic outlook on our trajectory, because they don't get to hear from the amazing people making progress each day. I see our strength in outlook and attitude rather than state requirements - which are not moving us at the pace of other surrounding states. What do you believe is the most pressing challenge that lies ahead for the clean energy industry in the state? Similar to the climate change issue, which may be a debate more relatable and bigger picture to readers, I see the issue lying in convincing the non-believers. It's very difficult to get a climate change non-believer to hear you out, because they are already casting aside the science, the current events, and the necessary transition in the way we design and consume. The clean energy industry is being held back by those who are afraid of CHANGE. What interested you most about being part of YPiE? I was looking for a good networking opportunity outside of the annual Local Energy Solutions (LES) Conference or sustainability fairs. It helps that everyone is very relatable and supportive - the events we host are fulfilling! What advice would you give to someone that is new to the industry or fresh out of college? Use your resources here at YPiE to advance yourself. Chances are that someone within our group has experience with whatever you're interested in. Don't create more work for yourself - we are more than happy to help! In terms of landing a first job: A lasting impression is someone who asked questions and showed genuine interest, and is not just going through the motions to check a box. Even when it comes to landing an internship, don't be afraid to reach out to an employer that doesn't have an internship posted. Tell them about your passion to learn and provide your availability...you could be surprised at where you land. A typical weekend for me is… A trip to Boston/NY to see a music event, drawing, or some kind of craft (that I'll either sell or get too attached to), and a game of Settlers of Catan with friends. What’s on your bucket list? Definitely a trip to Japan, but also Italy, Iceland and Bali are up there. My other bucket list items are mostly related to buying a home on a big piece of land and designing an open-air studio and Japanese garden. Tell us one thing most people don’t know about you. I never know how to answer this. I guess that I'm really into finances and planning. Fun Facts: Coffee or Tea? And how do you take it? Tea - specifically matcha and even better if it's iced with boba. Favorite NH Restaurant Oak House in Newmarket. Favorite Musician/Band/Music Genre I would say Lane 8, but there are some very close seconds. Progressive House is my preferred genre. Fave Recreational Activity Depends completely on the mood. Sometimes it's playing board games, other times it's exploring a new place.

  • Employee Q&A: Meet John

    What interested you in working at Clean Energy NH? I've been working in and on clean energy for most of my life so seemed like a good addition to my resume. What were you up to prior to working at the organization? After a decade in retirement (working for free on greenhouse gas [GHG] reductions), I decided to return to working (to pay for my next electric vehicle [EV], heat pump, etc). I was about to restart my business when I decided this was a better option. Why did you decide to work in the clean energy industry? While in grad school in Arizona, I discovered sun harvesting (some worked, some not so much). What’s not to love about abundant, free fuel? I was hooked. Describe your position in more detail. Who will you be working with and what will you be doing? As an energy efficiency and solar specialist, I’ll be working with citizens and municipalities in the Monadnock Region to save them money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What aspect of your job excites you most? Why? Sharing the savings from energy efficiency (EE) & photovoltaic (PV) with my neighbors and getting them to embrace it with measurable results. What advice would you give to your younger self? Pay attention, be in the moment, carpe diem. What do you like to do when you aren’t working? Hiking, skiing, paddling, trail work, enjoying life on my ridgetop. A typical weekend for me is… Depends on the weather and the workload. What’s on your bucket list? Thankfully, not much. If you could choose anyone to play you in a movie, who would it be? Harrison Ford. Tell us one thing most people don’t know about you. I enjoy sunrise (+/-) yoga. Fun Facts: Coffee or Tea? And how do you take it? Coffee with a shot. Fave NH Restaurant: Depends - Elm City Restaurant and Brewery or Mi Jalisco. Fave Musician/Band/Music genre: Depends on the time of day and mood, but I couldn’t live without music. Fave Recreational activity: Skiing. Fave Holiday: Thanksgiving.

  • YPiE Spotlight: Meet Ryan Polson

    Name: Ryan Polson Title: Senior Energy Consultant Employer: Standard Power City/Town of Residence: Raymond Why did you decide to work in the clean energy industry? To be honest, I was in need of a job. I was a year out of college, still job searching and not having much luck. I knew my current boss outside of work for a long time and he invited me in to interview. Little did I know that going on eight years later, I'd still be working in the energy world and loving what I do. What interested you in working at your current employer? At the beginning, it was merely a job. As I became further involved in the energy world, I grew to love what we do at Standard Power, and that makes me happy. Describe the work you do in more detail. Standard Power at its core is a sales company with strong efforts to develop and see renewable energy grow and thrive. We're often a multi-hat company, which I think is more enjoyable than doing the same thing every day. I'll have days where I do sales work, days where I run our pricing channel, and days where I'm managing our extensive hydroelectric program. What aspect of your job excites you most? Why? My work within the hydro industry probably excites me the most. Seeing old, run-down facilities rebuilt and brought back to life is such a cool thing. What makes you hopeful about the clean energy transition in New Hampshire? This is probably the easy answer, but younger generations are becoming more engaged in what we do to the planet. There's more engagement and action which hopefully leads to a better, more sustainable future. What do you believe is the most pressing challenge that lies ahead for the clean energy industry in the state? Politics. It's difficult to get things passed when both sides disagree a lot of the time. We have had some energy victories recently, so there is some progress being made. What interested you most about being part of YPiE? Finding like-minded people who do similar things in this industry. What advice would you give to someone that is new to the industry or fresh out of college? If you're seriously interested in the energy world, inundate yourself with as much information as possible. Read articles, attend events, intern or job shadow somewhere. Truly find out what you're passionate about - which I know can be daunting as a recent high school or college grad. A typical weekend for me is… I'm usually exploring local breweries with my wife, riding my bike, or watching movies. What’s on your bucket list? Visit New Zealand. (Lord of the Rings fan, obviously) Tell us one thing most people don’t know about you. I know too much about the show Full House. Fun Facts: I'm a blonde hair, blue eyed, lefty in a family of brown/black hair, brown-eyed righties. Play guitar. Was Prince at my Junior Prom.

  • Let's Talk Markets

    Recently, the State of New Hampshire put out a long-awaited update to our ten-year energy strategy. This document is not binding in any way; no policies are set when it is released, and no policymakers are statutorily bound to following its dictums. But the document serves as a statement of where the Executive Branch would like to steer the state and can signal to regulators or legislators the types of policies the governor and his appointees would like to see. That document signaled over and over that it wanted such policies to be based on “markets” (a word which appears 188 times in the document) and to be “cost-effective” (64 appearances). However, it has been observed that the strategy didn’t specifically identify any policies that would meet this criteria. The issue is that the delivery of electricity is perhaps the single most highly regulated commodity in the US economy. Electricity saves lives. It provides the power for ventilators during respiratory pandemics, and air conditioners during heat waves. It is central to our economy, fueling manufacturers, tech start-ups and air compressors at construction sites. As such, around a hundred years ago we decided as a society that access to electricity should be as close to universal as possible, and not left to markets alone. This being said, the electric industry in most of New England deregulated in the late nineties, and while the infrastructure to deliver it continues to be a state-sanctioned monopoly, there is competition for the electrons sold over those poles and wires. And we at Clean Energy NH have long believed that rationalizing and modernizing these markets will drive deployment of clean energy technologies. As such, please allow me to volunteer a few ideas. Any state policymaker inclined to make energy cleaner and more affordable is free to pick these ideas up and run with them. TRANSACTIVE ENERGY RATES This idea has been kicking around for decades, having been developed and championed by the economists at MIT. When you get your electric bill, chances are, you’re charged a flat rate per kilowatt hour that you use. However, the price of energy fluctuates wildly throughout the day and the year, with the costliest hours coming during our summer peak. Because every piece of infrastructure on the grid needs to be designed to accommodate these peak needs, a rough shortcut is to understand that 10 percent of the hours of the year drive as much as 40 percent of the cost of our electricity. So, why not charge people more for the hours that cost us more, and drive conservation in those few, peak times? This is the core insight of real-time, or transactive energy rates. In fact, one such rate is already being piloted by the New Hampshire Electric Coop. For participants, every day at 4pm their devices receive a signal that contains the price of electricity during every hour of the day in the following day. This signal is encoded in an open-source format that any device can be configured to read. This would allow your hot-water heater, your thermostat, your electric car charger, or even your home battery to be configured to automatically respond to those price signals. Your water heater wouldn’t turn on if the price exceeded a certain amount. Your thermostat would automatically dial back the AC by a degree or two during the daily peak. Your backup battery or your two-way EV charger could even be configured to sell a few kilowatt hours back to the grid if the price is good enough. The NH Electric Coop is actively seeking out partners to take advantage of this new rate. One early adherent is Generac, who has made a huge bet in the home battery space, and will now sell batteries that will come configured out of the box to respond to the Coop’s transactive rate. Another is Nuvve, a national leader in “vehicle-to-grid” electric car charging. With these market-based rates, you could be paid for your backup battery or your electric vehicle. Every utility should offer them. METERED ENERGY EFFICIENCY I love energy efficiency: getting the same thing for less energy and money? What’s not to love? The problem, generally, is that we are not terribly rational when it comes to how we spend our money. We are primates that evolved based on a need for instant gratification, and investments that pay off over a 5- or 10-year period simply don’t jibe with our psychology. (Not to mention that the average American homeowner moves every 8 years and may not fully realize the payback for their improvements.) These are just some of the reasons why people invest much less in energy efficiency than is economically rational, and we should find ways to encourage it. However, our existing methods for handing out these subsidies are too burdensome. Contractors must follow formulaic methods that are prescribed by centrally administered utility programs. They run through check lists of what they must do to prove they complied with the program requirements, even if these steps are unnecessary or superfluous. Their methods are circumscribed by what the central planners think their methods should be. A better approach would be to pay for performance. The energy performance baseline of a building could be established in advance, based on meter readings and fuel delivery records. A contractor could arrive and install improvements in a property, following the latest science or advancements in building trade knowledge, and then be paid based on the measured savings that a customer accumulated after the fact. The administrative costs would fall, and we would incentivize contractors and homeowners to save as much as possible. CREATE LOCAL ENERGY MARKETS As mentioned above, over a hundred years ago we decided that provision of electricity was too important to be left to the markets. However, in the late 90s, we realized that while access to electricity should be universal, the energy sold over the poles and wires could be allowed to compete. Now we have thriving regional electricity markets that run an auction for who the lowest cost supplier of electricity will be every five minutes. There are also auctions run once a year for which power plants will be expected to be ready for peak demand days 3 years out, called capacity auctions. We have markets that determine who will provide voltage support and frequency regulation and spinning reserves. But when it comes how that electricity is distributed locally, the markets end. Our distribution utilities (think Eversource, Liberty, and Unitil) make all the decisions when it comes to how we will manage our peak demand on hot days. These decisions set our electric rates. This type of central planning does not need to be. We could work with our utilities to turn themselves into Distribution System Operators. In this model, we would have our own, local markets. These markets would reward any resource that could reduce the amount of energy we used during the peak moments of each month, and the peak moment of the year. Batteries installed in homes as backup to the grid can do this, by discharging when prices are high. Solar arrays can do this, particularly if they are installed to point west, so they are generating later in the day when demand is highest. Energy Efficiency can do this since it reduces demand all of the time. And lastly, any customer can do this, because if they know that prices are high at certain moments, they can simply not turn on power hungry appliances. THE LIMITING FACTOR The only thing standing in between us and all of these “market based” ideas is that the utilities are still operating in a 1950s model, frequently with 1950s technology. Until the utilities begin to invest in technology that allow us to send price signals to individual customers—such as smart meters, or other networked controls—we be physically incapable of implementing any of the ideas laid out above. This was a key limitation that was laid out in the “Grid Modernization” docket, which was opened at the Public Utilities Commission in 2015, investigated for seven years, and then closed this past spring with no substantive action. In other words, to date, we’ve had a lot of talk about wanting “markets” to solve the problems of what may be the most regulated sector of the New Hampshire economy, but no action. I personally hope this latest update to the 10-year energy strategy reverses that trend.

  • The Era of Cheap American Gas is Over

    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 they didn’t want the high prices to end. 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 over. 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 renewables staved off further outages—utilities have been issuing solicitations for 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 Hampshire ratepayers.

  • Employee Q&A: Meet Gabe

    What interested you in working at Clean Energy NH? When I first talked to Melissa Elander about the community energy coordinator position at CENH, she mentioned how often she worked with New Hampshire communities. I was drawn to the opportunity of working closely with the community members and business owners of New Hampshire because I believe personal and grassroots efforts are some of the best ways to enact the change you want to see. When I learned CENH was a nonprofit organization I got excited to work with a company that was more driven by the issues I was passionate about and less about turning a profit. What were you up to prior to working at the organization? Before starting at CENH I was completing my bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and Policy at Plymouth State University. Why did you decide to work in the clean energy industry? I think I’ve been drawn to the clean energy industry since I was young, I remember building a small solar circuit with my grandfather so I could charge my Gameboy. Later in my life, I became more passionate about the environment than engineering and decided to pursue a career in it. I think I soon realized that the energy sector has such a massive influence on the environment and environmental policy that I felt like I could have the most impact by working to advance the renewable energy sector in any way I could. Describe your position in more detail. Who will you be working with and what will you be doing? As the community energy coordinator at CENH, I will spend most of my time working with businesses and homeowners in Coos county helping to implement energy efficiency measures and renewable energies in their homes and buildings. Most of my work is acting as a team member for these projects, someone who can dedicate more time to some of the more time-consuming tasks. For instance, I can assist in filling out grant applications and putting individuals in contact with contractors, energy auditors, and grant representatives while seeing each project through to the end. What aspect of your job excites you most? Why? I think the most exciting aspect of my job is the chance to interact with a wide variety of people. I love hearing about peoples lives, what drives them and what goals they have for themselves and their businesses. Helping people to become more energy efficient and economically independent while also working to tackle climate change is such a unique opportunity that I am so thankful for. What advice would you give to your younger self? Try every single kind of food someone offers you. What do you like to do when you aren’t working? When I’m not working I enjoy cooking, hiking, swimming, skate boarding and snowboarding, and spending time with my partner. A typical weekend for me is… Sleep in. Then finding a trail or swimming spot I haven’t been to yet and exploring there, in the evenings I like to experiment with new recipes and relax by watching a movie. What’s on your bucket list? Going on a food tour on every continent, also sky diving. If you could choose anyone to play you in a movie, who would it be? Tom Hardy Tell us one thing most people don’t know about you. I have been to 46 out of the 50 states. Fun Facts: Coffee or Tea? And how do you take it? Coffee just milk Favorite NH Restaurant Trailbreak Tap & Taco in West Lebanon Favorite Musician/Band/Music genre The Clash Favorite Recreational activity Snowboarding Favorite Holiday Thanksgiving

  • In Celebration of Unitil's Pretty Darn Good Rate Case

    Unfortunately, it hasn’t often been the case recently that I get to write about things that I’m excited about that are happening at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). But when progress happens, it’s important to call it out. As such, the goal of this blog post is to call attention to a pending Settlement Agreement that has been proposed in Unitil’s rate case. A rate case is generally where an electric distribution utility officially asks the PUC for permission to increase how much it charges customers to pay for the lower voltage poles and wires that carry electricity from the transmission system to homes and businesses. These are important dockets where a lot of state energy policy is interpreted, though they often fly under the radar, since all of the arcana of PUC ratemaking can be difficult for the lay public to follow. But there’s no reason that these rate cases *need* to be confusing, and so let’s pull back the veil a bit, shall we? Most of the rate cases are focused on the utilities recovering costs for system upgrades and maintenance that they have incurred since the last case. But sometimes forward thinking changes are made as well. Here’s what’s in the rate case that we’re excited about. Revenue Decoupling You don’t have to hang out in Energy Policy Land very long to hear people complain about what many consider to be the central flaw in the electric utilities’ business model: “throughput incentive.” This is the idea that utilities only make more money when they sell more electricity, and so even though it might be in society’s best interest to use energy efficiently, utilities profit motive entices them ultimately to do whatever they can to sell more KWhs. However, it need not be so. Let me introduce you to a little idea called “Decoupling.” If you want to dive very, very deeply into this idea you can read all about the various methods in this exhaustive report by the Regulatory Assistance Project, but at its core the idea is fairly simple. Regulated utilities have something called a revenue requirement--the amount of money they need in order to provide their public good and a “reasonable return” for their shareholders. Regulators set that revenue requirement, but then in normal ratemaking, they divide the revenue requirement by the number of KWh a utility is expected to sell to set your electric rates. In revenue decoupling, the regulator simply says: “we set the revenue requirement…and then that’s what you get.” There’s a lot of ways to go about it, but all of them amount to “if you collect too much revenue you give some back, but if you collect too little we let you collect a little more later.” Under decoupling, utilities now no longer have an incentive to sell extra electricity just to earn a little extra profit. When combined with other policy tools like performance incentives for hitting energy efficiency goals, their business model becomes better aligned with what’s good for the economy, society, and environment. Liberty Utilities was the first to undergo decoupling in NH. If the settlement is accepted Unitil will decouple as well. That’s a good thing. All House TOU Rates Very little electricity is stored. The vast majority of electricity is generated and consumed simultaneously, and the grid must always be kept in balance. This enormous balancing act means that grid operators need to deploy a huge variety of resources with staggeringly different costs in order to match demand with supply. On one end of the spectrum wind, solar and hydropower have no fuel cost, and on the other end of the spectrum are power plants that burn ultra-refined jet fuel. The higher cost resources, which tend to be used only during the periods of high electrical demand, also tend to have much larger climate and environmental impacts. Reducing the high cost, highly polluting resources will have benefits across society. These high cost resources, when dispatched also tend to set the electric rates that we are charged. Despite the impact of these high cost resources, most NH ratepayers spend the exact same amount for every kilowatt-hour they purchase. This means that a million plus NH residents have absolutely no incentive to modify their behavior in very simple ways that have the potential to massively ease the stress on our electricity infrastructure. A very simple solution to this is to create an electric rate that provides households with a “price signal” that encourages them to shift their energy consumption to those times of day when electric prices are lowest. This can be done by charging people different amounts for electricity at different times of day. (Even more exciting is the idea of a “transactive energy rate” but we’ll leave that discussion for another blog post.) We have been debating the merits of these Time of Use (TOU) rates for decades now, but finally the utilities seem to be willing to give them a try and Unitil includes such an option in their rate case. The basic take-away from the earliest pilots of TOU rates is that the bigger the price difference between “on peak” and “off peak” hours, the more effective they are at driving consumer behavior. The biggest changes in behavior come when the cost of electricity during peak hours is at least five times more expensive than off peak hours. And sure enough, Unitil’s TOU rate is right on target. The “illustrative” rate example they included in their filings has a ratio of 5.22 : 1 between on and off peak. For homeowners that opt in to this rate (it’s not mandatory), this means that they will have an opportunity to use electricity during some periods of the day that are deeply discounted compared to current default electric rates. As more people adopt these rates and respond to price signals, less of the expensive dirty generation will be called into service, providing economic, public health, and environmental benefits. Let’s gooooooooo. Electric Vehicle “Make-Ready” Investments It is my belief—based on all of the available evidence—that eventually the electrification of our transportation sector is going to save society a metric boatload of money. However, you have to spend some money to make money, and at first we’re going to have to invest in the electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure needed to encourage the transition to electric vehicles. Without a robust public charging network, NH residents and visitors may be hesitant to purchase or drive their EVs as there will be limited opportunities to charge their vehicles away from home. While some of the funding will come from already established public sources, and some will come from private investors, additional investments from the NH electric utilities are needed at this stage. This is called “make-ready” investment, and includes the back-end work (poles, wires, transformers, etc) needed to upgrade the grid in places where charging is happening. The Unitil Settlement Agreement proposal for these investments is pretty darn good. It includes make-ready investments that enable: Four fast charging sites, each with plugs for six cars, owned by third party charging companies. Twenty Level 2 chargers, each with plugs for as many as ten cars, (that’s as many as 200 chargers!) also owned by third parties. Another twenty Level 2 plugs installed on light poles in local main streets. Funding for $600 rebates for 250 individuals to install smart “managed” chargers at their homes so that the company can gather data on how such chargers are used. If this investment seems small to you, remember that Unitil is the state’s smallest investor owned utility and doesn’t have a gigantic service territory. This much EV charging infrastructure within the Unitil territory could be a big deal and lead to other utilities seeing similar scale investments in their territories, leading to the development of that critical public charging network. In Sum While our proposal for our rate-case would be even more ambitious if Clean Energy NH ran the world, Unitil’s is pretty darn good. As such, we’re pleased to sign on to the proposed settlement. We encourage the PUC to approve it without delay.

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