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Commission says it would place ‘an enormous burden on ratepayers’

Following a 10-month delay on a plan designed to go into effect at the start of the year, the Public Utilities Commission has denied what would have been New Hampshire’s most ambitious triennial energy-efficiency plan to date. That plan proposed spending over $350 million on energy efficiency over the next three years.

All of the stakeholders who put together the plan — from the state’s major utilities to the consumer advocate, as well as environmental groups in the state — agreed it would benefit the state by decreasing energy use and saving residents money.

The commission, in a decision that came late in the day on Nov. 12, ruled the price was too high and would place “an enormous burden on New Hampshire ratepayers.”

The decision takes state energy-efficiency programs in a markedly different direction: incrementally decreasing the rates that fund those programs from Dec. 1, 2021, through Oct. 31, 2023. The cap is set at 0.528 cents/kWh in 2021, which drops down to 0.373 cents in 2022, and 0.275 cents in 2023. Residents and businesses pay those rates through a part of their monthly electricity bill called the System Benefits Charge.

The order says that the rates will continue decreasing “until they return to a reasonable level.” The 2023 rate in the order is on par with 2018 levels.

The decision was signed by Chairwoman Dianne Martin on her final day serving in that position. She stepped down only two years into a six-year term. Daniel Goldner, who will replace Martin as chairman of the commission, also signed off on the order.

Consumer Advocate Don Kreis called the decision “a radical act of destruction” and said the order was deeply troubling.

“In its order issued last night, the PUC has administered a sledgehammer to more than two decades of energy-efficiency programs as delivered under the NHSaves banner,” he said in an email.

Kreis said he will consider seeking a rehearing, which would be a first step toward appealing the decision.

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