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BIA Business Perspective: NH needs energy siting reform to help lower costs

BIA Business Perspective: NH needs energy siting reform to help lower costs

More efficient Site Evaluation Committee can streamline review process

The need to lower the cost of energy in New Hampshire is one of the most critical issues to tackle for businesses, residents and the economy of the Granite State.

The Business & Industry Association, New Hampshire’s leading nonpartisan business advocate and statewide chamber of commerce, has consistently supported an “all of the above” approach to lowering costs, diversifying energy sources and modernizing energy generation and transmission infrastructure.

One of the most important and immediate steps toward that goal is reforming New Hampshire’s Site Evaluation Committee and House Bill 609 does just that. The House Science, Technology and Energy Committee on Monday, Nov. 6 took up a bipartisan amendment to HB 609, which would make the siting review process more efficient while maintaining the SEC’s responsibilities. The committee voted 20-0 in favor of ought to pass with amendment. Such a strong bipartisan vote speaks to the pressing need for reforming the SEC and an acknowledgment that the current makeup and quorum requirements are holding the Granite State back.

Now the bill moves to the full House and we strongly encourage representatives to pass HB 609 and send it to the Senate.

New Hampshire has an energy problem with electricity costs nearly 70% higher than the national average and fourth highest among the states. New Hampshire also has the fourth most expensive residential natural gas rates and second most expensive industrial natural gas rates among the states as of July 2023, according to Choose Energy. It’s important to note that as natural gas prices rise so do electricity bills as many electric generation plants that power New Hampshire are fueled by natural gas.

Efforts to diversify the Granite State’s energy sources, including local renewable sources, require market-driven private investment and a siting approval process that doesn’t drive up costs to the point where projects fail to come to fruition. New Hampshire’s current siting process is a significant expense for businesses and developers and the cost is only increased by undue delays.

The cost of failed proposed energy projects may not be borne by ratepayers, but that investment is sidelined, ultimately wasted and does not advance the goal of diversifying our energy generation and building a modern transmission grid.

The amended HB 609 addresses the fact the siting process is no longer adequately served by the current part-time makeup of the nine-member SEC. Projects are slowed unnecessarily because the SEC can struggle to meet quorum standards due to the busy schedules of its numerous members. More troubling, SEC members often delegate their responsibilities to others and establish subcommittees, creating more delays, a revolving door of decision-makers and inconsistencies.

HB 609 would reduce the SEC to five members, including the three Public Utilities Commission commissioners, the Department of Environmental Services commissioner, and a member of the public. This would streamline the review process and ensure continuity in the decision-making body.

PUC commissioners are already SEC members and possess the necessary expertise and familiarity with the subject matter. The bill does not change current SEC review standards, nor curtail opportunities for public participation. It doesn’t diminish the requirements for a project developer to provide full disclosure of its plans to the public, municipalities and state agencies, or cut back on the PUC’s obligations to conduct an open and transparent process. And the bill includes administrative operational changes that will likely expedite the process.

BIA will continue to advocate on behalf of state businesses and residents through our support of HB 609. A more efficient SEC would help New Hampshire attract the investments needed to build a modern energy supply and transmission infrastructure, which is critical to lowering costs. High energy costs are challenging New Hampshire businesses’ ability to compete nationally and internationally, and they present the risk of losing some of the state’s top employers to other less expensive regions of the country. High costs also burden residents and pull money away from other areas of the state economy.

Well-reasoned SEC reform will create an efficient review process that will facilitate the development of long-term energy projects to meet increasing demand and deliver vital cost savings for consumers.

Michael Skelton is president and CEO of the Business & Industry Association. Visit

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