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Tariffs tabled in state energy talks

August 21. 2014 8:28PM

A six-state committee looking at New England’s power needs has put off making any decisions about possible tariffs on electric customers to pay for a natural gas pipeline and new transmission lines.

The New England States Committee on Electricity (NESCOE) was looking for a potential vote next month.

“A brief extension of the process provides Massachusetts state officials time to evaluate options associated with moving forward with other states on regional solutions to the regional energy infrastructure challenges that have significant reliability and economic competitive implications for New England consumers,” the committee said in a statement.

NESCOE said it has no decision-making authority in connection with any energy plan or regional system plan. Any proposed energy infrastructure projects are reviewed, approved, amended or rejected by various state and federal agencies.

William Hinkle, press secretary to New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, said that “New Hampshire has engaged with the other New England states to explore prudent ways to increase natural gas capacity as one of the additional and diverse energy resources to help lower energy costs for ratepayers while pursuing sustainable energy solutions.

“Throughout preliminary discussions with other states, New Hampshire has been very clear that we will only move forward with proposals that reduce costs to ratepayers and that all proposals must respect state siting requirements and protect natural resources,” Hinkle said in an email.

“High energy prices hurt our families and could limit our economic growth, and Governor Hassan believes that as New Hampshire pursues our own long-term energy strategy, continued collaboration with our fellow New England states and other regional partners will be critical in order to diversify our energy sources and reduce energy costs for New Hampshire’s people and businesses,” Hinkle said.

10-year strategy

Meanwhile, the New Hampshire Office of Energy Planning, in consultation with the state energy advisory council, expects to release a final report on the state’s 10-year energy strategy by Sept. 1 after releasing a draft report May 1.

The 98-page draft report forecasted 20.1 percent of in-state power generation will come from renewable sources by 2025, shy of the 24.8 percent targeted by the renewable portfolio standards.

The difference can be made up by power providers buying renewable energy credits.

“In 2025, the combination of reduced demand and further development of diverse renewable power generation assets helps New Hampshire achieve its renewable portfolio standard target level,” the report said.

“In 2025, the residents and businesses of New Hampshire have many choices in the fuels they use for power, heat and transportation,” the report said. “Consumer options for home heating are no longer strictly limited by their geographic location, offering residents greater peace of mind in the face of fluctuating fuel prices.”

Karen Cramton, the office’s deputy director and energy programs administrator, said the state held seven public sessions since the draft report and people also were able to submit comments electronically. She said the final report “will look different” and will “provide different levels of information” than the draft report.

Navigant Consulting Inc. of Burlington, Mass., helped gather the public input and develop the energy strategy.

In June, William Quinlan, president and chief operating officer for Public Service of New Hampshire, told the New Hampshire Union Leader that Northern Pass was moving ahead as planned and not waiting for NESCOE to make recommendations about energy projects that could use eminent domain and ratepayer funds.

Getting ratepayer funding for the controversial Northern Pass project, which calls for new power lines to carry Canadian hydropower to the New England power grid, would make it “conceivable” that the project could afford to bury more miles of transmission lines in the North Country, but that’s not the plan, Quinlan said.

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