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Controversial energy bill becomes law

Jul 13, 2017

BY: CCNH-LFDA Highlights

By waiting and not acting on the bill, Gov. Chris Sununu allowed SB 129 to become law without his signature.  SB 129 is a somewhat controversial bill that supports solar and biomass energy in the Granite State.  The bill does three things:

  • increases the price utilities pay for electricity from biomass power plants
  • increases the amount of electricity utilities must buy from solar sources
  • increases subsidies for solar panels for low-income residents

Supporters: SB 129 saves jobs

Bill supporters argued that SB 129 will save jobs by supporting the forest industry and six biomass power plants in New Hampshire. According to a Concord Monitor editorial written by a group of legislators:

“One needs to look no further than the biomass power plant in Alexandria, to see why SB 129 is necessary. The plant recently suspended operation. These plants support over 900 jobs and over $250 million yearly in economic activity in our state. SB 129 is critical to their survival. Without SB 129, the remaining biomass plants are likely to close by 2018 and these jobs will vanish.”

Opponents: SB 129 is a hidden tax

SB 129 will probably increase utility bills for everyone, however, by increasing what utilities must pay for electricity.

“Our high electricity prices are well-documented– between 50% and 60% higher than the national average, year-round. New Hampshire utilities are already legally compelled to purchase biomass-generated power which has cost ratepayers additional tens of millions of extra dollars to date. Compelling them to purchase more is simply inappropriate.”

- Jim Roche, President, NH Business and Industry Association 

Balanced by a tax repeal?

Gov. Sununu said he allowed SB 129 to become law in part because the Legislature also repealed the Electricity Consumption Tax this year. That tax was put in place in 1997 when New Hampshire deregulated the electricity market, which made a different tax on utilities obsolete. The tax costs about 33 cents on the average monthly electric bill and generates about $6 million a year for the state.

While repealing the Electricity Consumption Tax will save consumers some money, SB 129 opponents argue the repeal doesn’t come close to balancing the higher electricity costs that will come from SB 129.

Do you support SB 129? Let us know in the comments.

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