Introduction: A Clean Energy Economy for All
Dan Feltes will make 2020 the year New Hampshire launches a new clean energy economy to generate thousands of living-wage jobs and lead the recovery after COVID-19. This clean energy economy will follow the leading science on climate and embrace proven technologies to help keep our children, forests, farms, seacoast, and businesses safe from the climate crisis. Granite Staters should not have to bear the burden of any more avoidable crises that cost innocent lives. A clean energy economy can help address the COVID-19 recession while slashing climate pollution that harms our state and its most vulnerable residents.
Looking back, we now know 2019 was the second hottest year ever recorded and New Hampshire’s average winter temperature is up 5.5º since 1970. Over 100 Granite Staters die annually from carbon pollution at a public cost of nearly $1 billion a year. Our winter sports and hospitality sector is now endangered. And with that warming come resultant spikes in Lyme disease, lake warming, algae blooms, sea-level rise and storm surges. Family farms across the state are losing livestock to heat stress, fruit crops are down, our fishing industry is facing changes, and our wildlife are under siege. Looking forward, we have the solutions to address these challenges: local energy, clean buildings, and emissions-free transportation.
During his time in office, Chris Sununu has steadfastly resisted the unequivocal science of climate change, as reflected in his statements and more than a dozen vetoes of bipartisan climate and clean energy legislation. While Sununu has, on occasion, listened to scientists on the COVID-19 crisis, he continues to ignore them on the climate crisis. But we cannot choose which science is real based on politics: science must drive all of our choices or the crises will not stop here.
Why does Chris Sununu selectively ignore science? Because he remains tightly intertwined with the same fossil fuel interests that benefit from sinking our money into old-fashioned, dirty energy. Indeed, a deceptively named group with which he is affiliated, the New England Ratepayers Association (NERA), recently tried to destroy the net metering system that has created thousands of jobs in New Hampshire and given over 8,000 Granite State homes, towns and businesses freedom to produce their own clean, low cost distributed energy. NERA appears to be secretly doing the bidding of Chris Sununu and his fossil fuel friends, who have opposed net metering at every opportunity.
For years, Dan Feltes has been the leader combatting the crisis and advancing clean energy at the State House. And while Chris Sununu has vetoed over a dozen clean energy initiatives, mostly bipartisan, the clean energy initiatives that did make it through were spearheaded by Dan, including community solar (SB 165, 2019), community power (SB 286, 2019), and expanding opportunities for community net-metering (SB 166, 2020). In addition, Dan passed legislation ensuring that no lobbyist or political fees or contributions by any utility could ever be passed onto ratepayers (SB 206, 2019).
Dan Feltes knows we can’t afford to move from crisis to crisis: science must lead politics, not the other way around. Dan sees tremendous opportunity in working with communities and industry all across the state to help solve the climate crisis. Dan understands how energy efficiency will create good jobs; how solar, wind, existing biomass, and hydropower all reduce pollution; and how a clean, competitive energy economy can help make New Hampshire a leading destination for young people who want to be part of the solution. In this new energy economy, ratepayers will come first, while job security and energy security will be strengthened through local control, with a prevailing wage law applied to state initiatives, programs, and projects in clean energy.
Dan’s plan for New Hampshire’s clean energy future has three core building blocks: (1) clean, local power; (2) safe and healthy buildings; and (3) clean, reliable transportation.
1. Clean, Local Power
Every year, Granite Staters export over $4 billion for non-renewable energy to power our way of life, even though clean, local energy sources are now available at a lower cost. As a leading advocate on climate and clean energy in Concord, Dan Feltes understands that we do not have to choose between the interests of ratepayers, our local economy, and the environment. Instead, we can help all three by making New Hampshire a leader in solar, wind, energy storage, and efficiency while adding thousands of new middle-class jobs and reducing energy bills for all. As governor, Dan will act swiftly to declare New Hampshire’s cleantech economy open for business by implementing five common-sense measures:
Committing to 100% Clean Energy. New Hampshire’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is a proven tool for setting data-driven goals for clean energy adoption and encouraging the private sector to meet those goals in the most cost-effective way. Since it was adopted in 2007, the NH RPS has “increased use of renewable fuels and the development of renewable technologies, and has provided both economic and environmental benefits” including 13,000–20,000 clean-tech industry jobs and a 19.25% reduction in carbon pollution from 2008–2015. Unfortunately, the current administration has blocked legislative efforts led by Dan to modernize the RPS. As governor, Dan will institute a “2030 Commission” with dedicated resources and robust youth, BIPOC, and building trades representation tasked with developing a plan for how to achieve 100% clean energy by 2030. Achieving these goals will bring tens of billions of dollars in local economic investment and create 16,000 permanent jobs in wind and solar directly, in stark contrast to the nearly 20% of net solar industry jobs lost in New Hampshire since Chris Sununu took office.
Empowering Local Distributed Generation. Net metering has proven critical to the growth of small-scale renewables in New Hampshire by allowing families, businesses, nonprofits, and municipalities to offset their energy needs with solar, wind, and hydropower at a fraction of the retail cost. The state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has found that net metering benefits all ratepayers by diversifying the energy mix, reducing transmission costs, and increasing the available supply of electricity during periods of peak demand. Currently, net metering facilities are capped at 1 megawatt (MW) — well below the consumption level of many businesses and municipalities — and customer-generators who net meter are paid far less than retail electric rates by utilities, who sell the excess power to customers next door for 50% to 150% more than its net-metered value. Dan has led a bipartisan coalition to raise the net metering cap from 1 MW to 5 MW each year since 2017. Sununu has vetoed every bill, but as governor, Dan will get this job done.
Investing in Offshore Wind. The steady winds off our New Hampshire coast are stronger than almost anywhere in the world, peaking during the winter months as solar output dips. The shallow waters on our continental shelf make offshore wind a vital opportunity for the entire New England grid. Wind is essential to achieving our carbon reduction goals. Its abundance in winter would help run the heat pumps of the future and make new gas pipelines totally unnecessary. Neighboring states are moving fast to harness this abundant resource by setting ambitious goals and signing contracts for over 9,000 MW of wind capacity. New Hampshire is the only coastal state with no offshore wind goals or contracts in place. That will change when Dan becomes governor and issues the state’s first RFP for 500 MW of offshore wind and establishes an Offshore Wind Development team under his new Office of Energy and Climate. By collaborating with neighboring states, coastal and fishing communities, businesses, utilities, and unions, Dan will take the lead in advancing offshore wind and ensuring the economic benefits of this new multi-billion-dollar industry accrue to New Hampshire.
Removing Red Tape. New Hampshire’s low penetration of clean renewable energy is largely the result of unnecessary legislative and regulatory barriers. As Senate Majority Leader, Dan has authored and passed bipartisan legislation to raise the arbitrary net metering caps. As governor, Dan will: raise the net metering cap from 1 MW to 5 MW and the small customer-generator cap from 100 kW to 500 kW; stop the unfair practice of utilities “sweeping” unclaimed Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) owned by clean energy generators; enable robust virtual net metering for community solar farms; ensure third-party energy suppliers permit net metering instead of requiring default supply; extend the voluntary property tax exemption for solar and storage statewide; and support more efficient and standardized permitting of distributed renewables without blanket barriers to adoption in certain. He will also work with labor unions and industry to build the clean energy workforce of the future and remove unnecessary barriers of entry into the trades.
Modernizing the Grid. Achieving 100% clean energy by 2030 requires that we begin modernizing our outdated electric distribution and transmission systems today. As governor, Dan will establish a commission to plan the deployment of a clean-energy “smart grid” with time-of-use rates for effective integration of distributed renewables, battery storage, electric vehicles, and smart home technology by 2030. Working with New Hampshire’s utilities and energy and environmental stakeholders, Dan will require that Non-Wires Alternatives (e.g. demand-response and distributed solar+storage) be considered in place of traditional utility capital investments and promote policies that designate small-scale renewables as load reducers to lower ISO transmission charges and benefit all ratepayers. He will also seek legislation to require enforceable Integrated Resource Plans from utilities every three years that track grid modernization, climate resiliency, distributed generation, beneficial electrification, and efficiency against state goals.
2. Safe and Healthy Buildings
Safe and healthy buildings are essential to New Hampshire’s families and workers. Our homes and businesses also have the power to help clean the environment by producing and using energy smartly. In the U.S., buildings account for 40% of primary energy use and associated greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, New Hampshire ranks dead last in the northeast on building efficiency, and energy efficiency jobs are going to other states and too many children are sleeping in cold, drafty homes. Dan Feltes has been the leading advocate of clean, healthy buildings in the New Hampshire legislature for years because he knows all New Hampshire citizens deserve safe and efficient homes. As governor, Dan will stop the drain of good building jobs to other states and focus on making our homes safe, clean, and affordable. He will prioritize:
Securing Critical Funding. For years Dan has fought sinister efforts to strip and divert regional funds intended for safe and healthy Granite State buildings. As governor, he will work with private sector partners to establish a public-private green bank to help overcome barriers to widescale energy efficiency and clean energy adoption, particularly by low-income Granite Staters. He will stabilize funding for healthy building programs and lower energy bills across the state by investing RGGI auction revenues in safe and healthy buildings, without cuts to other funding sources. He will investigate using COVID-19 stimulus funds to weatherize housing for low-income residents and thereby lower their energy bills.
Maximizing Building Efficiency. Dan will move the state building stock toward net-zero through modern building codes and deep retrofits in order to save us cash, reduce carbon, and increase comfort. He will set targets to grow clean building jobs by 1) providing multi-year funding for efficiency programs, 2) establishing a midstream program with discounts for equipment purchased from wholesale distributors, 3) and training for the efficiency workforce. Dan will set a goal to help low-income residents install 5,000 heat pumps per year by 2025 while bringing 500 new energy efficiency jobs to the state by the same year.
Phasing Out Fossil Fuels. Dan will work with the legislature to direct the PUC to increase coordination between electric and gas utilities to reduce fossil fuel use and transition to locally produced, clean electricity. He will also invest at least half of the additional funds secured from regional RGGI auctions in transitioning New Hampshire homes and businesses off fossil fuels. Dan will work to swap out old dirty appliances that cause unsafe indoor conditions and replace them with clean electric appliances that keep families safe and warm while slashing indoor air pollutants and energy budgets. He will target incentive programs to make sure that all Granite Staters have access to clean, electric appliances like heat pumps, smart thermostats, geothermal, and heat pump water heaters that are cheaper to operate.
Making the State Part of the Solution. Because taxpayer funds shouldn’t be wasted heating drafty old buildings, Dan will drive the transition of state buildings to green buildings. Dan will set commonsense standards for energy investments across state agencies. All 500+ state-owned buildings will be subject to energy efficiency audits by the end of 2022 and will carry out weatherization if they fail to meet threshold energy efficiency standards. State agencies will be required to consider and make public the cost-savings and health benefits of installing on-site solar and storage, as well as the health and climate benefits of reducing on-site fossil fuel combustion and consumption.
3. Clean and Reliable Transportation
Air pollution is a silent killer that affects New Hampshire disproportionately. The state Department of Health and Human Services consistently finds rates of asthma among the highest in the nation, accounting for thousands of hospital visits and more than $177 million in annual medical costs to Granite Staters. The COVID-19 crisis shines a harsh light on how air pollution and asthma kill Americans as it exacerbates respiratory illnesses of all kinds. The cars, trucks, and buses we rely on now are a major source of this hazard. The Department of Environmental Services reports vehicle emissions, at a whopping 42%, are the single biggest source of greenhouse gas pollution in New Hampshire. Fortunately, electric cars and buses are clean, safe, fun, and reliable, especially as our electric system uses more solar, wind, and hydropower. As Governor, Dan will invest in a modern and healthy New Hampshire with electric transit corridors that serve local residents and tourists alike. From day one, Dan will make electric vehicles and mass transit top priorities with the following initiatives:
Going Electric Now. Dan will rapidly invest federal clean air violation settlement funds in charging stations across the state. Dan will work with businesses and utilities to leverage these funds with private investment and utility know-how to reduce costs for Granite Staters as they go electric. Within his first 100 days in office, Dan will ask the state’s utilities to propose ways to better serve electric vehicles and lower costs for electric vehicle charging through time-of-use rates and alternatives to demand charges. Dan will also direct state workplaces to assess the benefits of installing one EV charging station per 100 workers, and to conduct a cost-benefit analysis to assess reduced maintenance and other cost-savings of electrifying state car and vehicle fleets. State agencies will be required to choose electric when the overall costs of an electric car, truck, or bus are comparable or better than internal combustion options.
Putting Passenger Rail Back on Track. The state’s current governor has called New Hampshire a suburb of Boston, but has done nothing to reduce the traffic, pollution or cost associated with commuter transit (apart from his brief support for commuter rail when Amazon was investigating a new HQ). Meanwhile, the latest research by NHDOT finds passenger rail would ease traffic and pollution while bringing over $900 million in local construction investment and adding thousands of good-paying jobs when we need them the most. Dan will work with private industry and the federal government to bring cost-effective passenger rail back to New Hampshire because it is a smart, easy solution backed by 75% of Granite Staters.
Creating Transit Solutions for All. As a long-time advocate for low-income families, Dan carries his commitment to equal access into all that he does. Within his first 100 days, Dan will launch a Governor’s Committee on Transportation Solutions, to consider mass transit, urban vehicle electrification, and other clean, affordable transportation solutions. The Committee will at a minimum consider: 1) clean and affordable transit solutions for low-income Granite Staters who may not have reliable transit of their own, 2) access to rural transit options, and 3) accelerating clean and efficient transportation options through collaborative cross-state efforts that cut costs and save lives from pollution, such as the Transportation Climate Initiative, passenger railways, and long-distance buses. Dan will also work to provide financial and technical support for Community Action Agencies and other service agencies, including Granite State Independent Living, to upgrade bus and transportation fleets to clean energy.
Conclusion: Building the Clean Energy Economy for New Hampshire Now
By leading proactively on local clean energy solutions, Dan Feltes will help New Hampshire communities build their own independent future safe from new crises. A state government under Dan will no longer obstruct progress — it will remove obstacles to a modern energy future and take administrative actions to reduce government inefficiencies and empower local and state decisionmakers with science-based solutions.
Dan will re-organize the Office of Strategic Initiatives and parts of other state agencies to form a new Office of Energy and Climate that houses a Climate Mitigation Task Force, Offshore Wind Development team, and leads the development of a private-public green bank. Dan’s Climate Mitigation Task Force will investigate and address the impacts of climate instability on a) farms and forests and their role in sequestering carbon, b) rising sea levels and the seacoast economy and way of life, and c) the vitality of our tourism, recreation, and wildlife in a rapidly warming world.
Dan will join other governors in supporting the Paris Climate Agreement. While this agreement is far from perfect, it sets the direction for countries around the globe. Governor Sununu, acting in lockstep with climate denier oil interests, has refused to join the state coalition supporting the agreement even though all the other New England states have done so. Governor Feltes will move swiftly to join the coalition.
Dan will work with his Attorney General to bring suit against fossil fuel corporations that knowingly misled the public and policymakers on the reality of climate science and the risks of catastrophic climate change, with the aim of recouping some of the high cost of climate damage perpetrated on New Hampshire. Dan will recommend a dedicated fund to use any settlement or litigation monies for climate adaptation and resiliency projects.
Time and again, Chris Sununu has applied 20th century thinking to New Hampshire’s energy challenges and put the needs of polluters and campaign contributors ahead of everyday Granite Staters. It’s time for a 21st-century response to the climate crisis grounded in science and focused on local solutions without any new fossil fuel infrastructure. For years, Dan has led the New Hampshire legislature in crafting and passing clean energy innovations only to see one bipartisan bill after another vetoed by Sununu. Now we need Dan in the corner office to make his vision of a thriving clean energy economy that supports human health and adds thousands of good-paying jobs a reality. We welcome you to join Dan’s team.
Co-authored by Senator Dan Feltes, Melissa Birchard, Gary Hirshberg, Bob King, and Dan Weeks. Melissa Birchard, Gary Hirshberg, Bob King, and Dan Weeks are longtime leaders in environmental law, agriculture, and clean energy in New Hampshire.