NH Rep, Susan Almy


Working with climate change In New England: regional, state, county and local initiatives

NH Rep. Susan Almy, City of Lebanon

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)      https://www.rggi.org

“In effect since 2009, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is the first mandatory market-based program in the United States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. RGGI is a cooperative effort among the states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, [and now New Jersey] to cap and reduce CO2 emissions from the power sector.”  (from their website; I added NJ, which joined again as soon as it lost Gov. Christie)

Each power plant over 25MW must purchase at auction or from others the permission to emit the greenhouse gas they plan to produce over the year. Since 2012, the allowable total cap on emissions has been reduced yearly, making it more expensive for power plants to continue to emit gases and forcing them to seek efficiencies or subsidize more efficient sources.  The total cap has been reduced by 56% from 2009 (when it was overly generous) to 2018, as the regional electricity plants converted from oil to natural gas, and solar energy and windmills were added to the existing hydropower.

Until 2017 the cap reductions were more of a threat and stimulus than a direct hit on the firms.  The auction money produced goes back to the states and is used primarily to fund energy efficiency projects of businesses, municipalities and low-income homes.

In New Hampshire, although the project was conceived and voted in under Republican legislatures, it began under Democratic ones.  After the Great Recession and the 2010 electoral redistricting, New Hampshire has had climate-science-denying far-right-wing Republicans running all or part of every legislature.  We have had to fight hard to preserve our state’s membership of RGGI, and been helped by a powerful Republican senator involved in RGGI from the start, and by the complexities of our membership in the New England regional energy grid.  We have had to concede ground in what was done with the money.  Last term they ended the energy-efficiency elements almost entirely, and sent pennies back to each ratepayer instead. This term they ended the business energy efficiency program – perhaps because most large businesses that needed it had already used it – and sent that part of the money to business ratepayers.  But they resurrected the municipal and low-income programs due to political pressure from what have become known post-Trump as the Resistance movement.  I hope to be able to add more about other energy measures lost and won from a colleague who promised me his best overview.

I understand California modelled its power initiative on ours.  For a national view on this, see https://www.vox.com/energy-and-environment/2018/4/25/17269544/fossil-fuel-carbon-trading-economies-rggi-northeast

New Hampshire adopted net metering rules some years back which reward local small energy producers, including individual homes, for installing solar capacity past their own needs (or windmills, or tiny hydro generators, but these are less feasible).  The state is also, under the first Republican governor in 14 years, still promoting energy efficiency incentives in various counties, for ideas see https://www.nh.gov/osi/energy/saving-energy/incentives.htm.


Grafton County is carbon-neutral: geothermal and biomass plants heat a large complex, including a nursing home and jail, through NH winters – and the jail is cooled in summer by geothermal heat pumps.  The geothermal heat pumps were buried under the parking lot in 2011 during construction, and only possible because we had to build an entirely new jail in a new spot.  The biomass plant was opened in 2013, and burns wood chips.  My small city has tried wood-pellet plants for both a new middle school and the new public library, with less success.  My county benefitted from a really good maintenance chief, who worked with us (NH reps are their county’s voting body) over two years to investigate the technology, find the most experienced builders, and evaluate the wood market within 50 miles of the county seat, to be sure we would not end up with little or expensive supply.  The result was a net savings of $450,000 over the first four years, despite falling petroleum prices.  Neither the nursing home nor the jail have had complaints of insufficient winter heat.

Photos attached: Map of complex, biomass plant opening


Upper Valley Adaptation Workshop   http://uvaw.uvlsrpc.org/

Formed of regional and town planners and interested citizens in two states (VT-NH), the group presents semi-annually on topics related to understanding local climate change effects and armoring our infrastructure (roads, culverts, pipes, buildings) and ecology (wildlife, flora, agriculture and forestry) to the massive storms and flooding we have been experiencing and to the warming climate.  Its work so far has resulted in town projects to stabilize rivers, replace inadequate culverts and erosion measures, identify and protect wildlife corridors.  About 20 towns and my small city participate.

Town energy committees focus on changing zoning ordinances to reduce energy use and allow solar and windmills, upgrading municipal buildings to higher energy standards, re-using landfill gases, bringing solar to local homes and working for municipal solar projects, educating the public about LED bulbs, and for some, fighting the introduction of natural gas transfer facilities and local pipelines to our region.  The Hanover committee also identified a green-energy source their citizens and some neighbors could get their electricity from, New Hampshire having separated energy distribution from production on our electric bills.  Cornish and Plainfield pioneered a campaign to bring together solar builders and homeowners to increase solar energy in their communities, which has now spread to other towns.  All three have all passed 100%-renewable-by-2020 goals.  Lebanon has the majority of jobs in the region and has to figure out how to bring along at least the majority of those before trying to pass such a goal.

Hanover NH: https://www.hanovernh.org/sustainable-hanover-committee

Lebanon NH: https://lebanonnh.gov/519/Lebanon-Energy-Advisory-Committee

Plainfield NH: http://www.plainfieldnh.org/energy/energy.htm

Cornish NH: http://www.cornishnh.net/?page_id=881

Lyme NH: https://www.lymenh.gov/energy-committee

Grantham NH: http://www.granthamnh.net/energy

Norwich VT: http://norwich.vt.us/energy-committee/



From the FY17 annual report: Our FY17 biomass fuel savings were less than last year’s due to another drop in fossil fuel prices in addition to a costly repair to a few under-ground pipes at two vault locations. In FY17 we burned 1,800 tons of hardwood bole chips costing $59 a ton, displacing 84,118 gallons of #2 oil at a cost of $2.15 per gallon and 9,529 gallons of propane at a cost of $1.17 per gallon. In FY17 the biomass plant saved the county tax payers $60,078. The cumulative fuel savings since starting up the plant in FY14 has reached $450,760.