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Another View -- Gov. Chris Sununu: A new energy strategy for New Hampshire

April 16. 2018 5:48PM

NEW HAMPSHIRE has made great strides over the last year to reinvigorate our economy and to reaffirm our commitment to being open for business. Short-term political calculations of the past must give way to long-term investments for the future. We are working hard to lower our electricity rates — some of the highest in the nation — and today, I am announcing an energy plan that will chart New Hampshire’s course forward.

Whether it’s the family working hard to make ends meet or the business that has to put off hiring new employees, high electricity costs weigh down on everyone — especially the elderly and those on fixed incomes. It’s time for change. Today, New Hampshire is releasing a new 10 Year State Energy Strategy to address our urgent needs. This plan sets the stage for New Hampshire to finally get out of the business of picking winners and losers in the energy market.

I know firsthand how the crushing burden of high electricity cost can affect a business. Before being elected governor, I ran Waterville Valley Ski Resort, where we spent up to $1 million a year in electricity. Money spent on expensive electricity was money that we couldn’t invest back into our business or our workforce. If you run a ski area, you can’t just pick up your business and move it to another state where costs are lower. But other businesses can.

Recently, Hitchiner Manufacturing of Milford announced its latest expansion in New Hampshire. This was not a sure thing. Despite all of the progress we have made to strengthen our economy and to create a more welcoming climate for businesses, one fact kept coming up: Our electricity rates are simply too high for one of New Hampshire’s best employers. Despite everything we have done, our rates can be a detriment to businesses who wish to stay here. In the end, our teams from across the state came together to incentivize Hitchiner to choose New Hampshire, but it shouldn’t be that difficult. Our high electricity costs are holding us back.

It will not be easy, but this is a problem that we can solve, and New Hampshire’s new 10 Year Energy Strategy is the first step. Our energy strategy lays out the principles and goals that will put us on the path toward a stronger system. It focuses on practical results and reducing government barriers to innovation. It focuses on ensuring a clean environment and making sure our energy system is secure, reliable and resilient. And most importantly, it focuses on lowering electricity rates for everyone in New Hampshire.

Clean technology plays an important role in our energy future. Our strategy ensures renewable technologies will continue to grow in importance and market impact, and market selection should steer those investments. We best serve our environment by striving to achieve a market where low-emission resources are economically competitive without government mandates and subsidies.

My administration has recently made the commitment to dedicate more than $4.5 million from the Volkswagen Settlement to create strong electric vehicle charging infrastructure right here in New Hampshire. We made that decision because our strategy recognizes that government investment in electric vehicle charging infrastructure should be carefully assessed, and if possible drawn from available non-taxpayer or ratepayer funding sources to avoid cost shifting. We determined that the best way to make a reasoned investment was not through a tax, but through smartly managing our available funds. This investment, along with our elimination of the costly Electricity Consumption Tax last year, are just two of the latest examples of being creative to ensure that investments are made while reducing the burden of all ratepayers.

I urge our state’s legislators and policy makers to read our 10 Year State Energy Strategy and to apply the principles it lays out. Our energy policies should fit those principles, and we must have the courage to make changes where necessary. If we are successful, New Hampshire will lead the region in lowering our energy rates.

We all share the same goals: Less expensive electricity, fewer burdensome regulations, and a cleaner environment. New Hampshire’s new Energy Strategy is the guide we can follow into the next decade that will show New Hampshire is leading the way toward achieving better outcomes for everyone.

We must put aside the political posturing and the cronyism that has for too long plagued our state’s energy policy and focus on what matters: Getting the job done for New Hampshire.

Chris Sununu, R-Newfields, is governor of New Hampshire.

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