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NH needs energy siting reform to help lower costs

NH needs energy siting reform to help lower costs

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 siting process. The state has that opportunity as the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee works on a bipartisan amendment to House Bill 609, which would make the siting process more efficient while maintaining its responsibilities. The committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the bill Monday, Nov. 6.

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 proposed amendment to HB 609 addresses the fact the siting process is no longer adequately served by the current part-time makeup of the nine-member Site Evaluation Committee (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.

The amendment would reduce the SEC to five members, including the three Public Utilities Commission (PUC) 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 amendment 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 amendment includes administrative operational changes that will likely expedite the process.

A more efficient SEC would help the state attract investments needed to build a modern energy supply 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.

BIA continues to advocate for state businesses and residents and is calling on the House committee to recommend passage of HB 609 with the proposed amendment. Passing the amended bill would create an improved siting review process that will facilitate the development of long-term energy projects needed to modernize New Hampshire’s aging energy infrastructure.

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

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