Clean Energy NH Executive Director
‘Ten years from now, I would like to see the topic of clean energy transition as no longer political,’ says Sam Evans-Brown, the new executive director of Clean Energy NH. (Courtesy photo)
For over 10 years, Sam Evans-Brown was a journalist and familiar voice on New Hampshire Public Radio, covering the state’s environment and energy economy and eventually creating and hosting the popular podcast, “Outside/In.” But now, instead of reporting on it, he’s taking action. As the new executive director of Clean Energy NH, Evans-Brown is working to make a more energy-efficient future possible — but, he says, lawmakers must be willing to listen.
Q. Why did you leave journalism and public radio to join Clean Energy NH?
A. Energy policy and the energy transition is an endless well of information — you can always go deeper and learn more. A perfect illustration is the Eastern Interconnection, which is the entire grid from us down to Texas and then over to the Rocky Mountains. The entire interconnection is synchronous and if anything gets out of sync, you start to have problems across the grid.
The whole machine was built piecemeal, and it’s just a fascinating sort of kludgedtogether, wonderful, mysterious thing we’ve built. So, to me, that was personally attractive, but then after being a journalist and writing about energy, it just starts to become really clear what the trajectory of our energy system is.
Q. How do you advocate for clean energy in New Hampshire?
A. The organization started at a very grassroots level with just homeowners who wanted to do their part. And then it grew to communities, and it started with “How can we get local energy committees created and act at a community level to clean up these bigger facilities that have a bigger energy footprint?” Then, there was this realization that we actually can’t do much unless we have help from state policy.
We push for change in three places: at the local and municipal level, in the Legislature and at the Public Utilities Commission. Locally, we’re hoping that municipalities will lead by example. We’re bringing the message to them that if they invest in these technologies, they’re saving money for their taxpayers and they can reduce their property tax burden for folks.
Over the past 10 years, the price of solar panels has dropped by 89 percent. The price of lithium-ion batteries has dropped by almost 97 percent over the last 30 years. And the price of wind, which we’re not investing in much here in New Hampshire, has dropped by a similar amount.
The change has been so fast that people just need help to understand it all.
Some lawmakers are still fighting yesterday’s battle with the belief that renewable energy is going to be more expensive and the energy transition is going to be economically painful. But we’re trying to show that’s not the case — we can have an energy system that’s cleaner and cheaper, which is better for the world.
The PUC is all about the evidence. We have to marshal the data and show regulators the options that are the best choice for New Hampshire ratepayers. Energy efficiency is a perfect example of that, where we have to prove that this amount of investment will yield this amount of benefit over the next 10 years, and here are the tests that we use to prove that they’re cost-effective.
That’s what we’re all about: just bringing the facts and updating people’s understanding of what this transition’s going to be like.
Q. Is there any legislation that hinders your work?
A. New Hampshire is the hole in the donut. So, if you look at all of the surrounding New England states, all of them have more welcoming policy environments for these technologies than New Hampshire does. New Hampshire is falling behind, and it’s going to hurt us, because businesses want to be in a state where they can be part of the solution. If they can’t because of New Hampshire’s policy environment, they’re going to take their employees and young people elsewhere.
Q. What are some of Clean Energy NH’s long-term goals?
A. Ten years from now, I would like to see the topic of clean energy transition as no longer political. I think we’re on the verge of that right now. It’s driven by improvements in technology, and we need to bring the story to folks so that they can update their understanding.
New Hampshire’s political scene is confusing and intimidating, but also very open. The degree to which lawmakers are ready to hear from constituents and are actually swayed by their voices can’t be overstated.
With our citizen legislature, where every bill gets a hearing and testimony is open to the public, you can have a real impact, and we can help you do it. We can direct you to the bills that are important and tell you why they’re important. So, please get involved. There is a better future waiting for us.