IN 2019, the state Legislature and Governor Chris Sununu passed the bipartisan Community Power Law (RSA-53E) that advanced New Hampshire to the forefront of electrical system deregulation in the United States. RSA-53E removed the monopoly on those energy system functions that are not a “natural monopoly” and returned them to local communities. House Bill 315 would completely roll back RSA-53E.

The Community Power Law was an important step forward for New Hampshire because, lacking competition, monopoly utilities were not incentivized to:

Innovate.

Save their customers money by lowering costs.

Work to improve products and delight customers.

As customers, our choices were to accept it or live in the dark.

In 2019, RSA-53E changed this and did something unambiguously good. It removed monopoly power where it provided no benefit to New Hampshire ratepayers. Under RSA-53E , local communities can make decisions about where they get their power and what programs to offer. Utilities continue to play the essential role of managing a reliable electrical distribution network, where there is a “natural” monopoly that is to everyone’s benefit.

By giving local communities the option, but not the obligation, to take over the aspects of electrical power supply that are not a “natural monopoly,” we realize a myriad of benefits:

Choice

Local communities decide from where and what kind of power they buy. They can choose local power that brings economic development or more renewable energy to reduce pollution.

Local communities can choose to set up programs that match the local communities’ priorities, such as targeted energy efficiency programs that lower electric bills or tax bills when applied to public buildings.

Local communities and citizens can choose to stay with their current utility offering.

Aggregation

The bigger the buyer the better price they get. This is true across the economy, and it is the reason that many small buyers often band together to buy in bulk. RSA-53E allows communities to negotiate on behalf of their citizens and get them a better deal than they ever have had as individual ratepayers. This is an unequivocal benefit.

Since 2019, communities across New Hampshire have, on their own or by banding together, done the hard work of putting in place the administrative infrastructure to direct the energy choices of their communities. They have done so openly and with existing governance structures at the town level. Local energy decisions are being made by local citizens and ratepayers, and their priorities will determine the state’s energy future.

Those communities are making different decisions based on their distinct priorities, but HB315 would stop these efforts dead in their tracks just as those efforts are about to start bearing fruit.

I moved to New Hampshire a year and a half ago and was impressed to learn about the newly passed Community Power Law, RSA-53E, smart bipartisan legislation that was putting energy innovation at the forefront in the state. HB 315 would destroy that.

The rest of the country right now is mostly divided into states where on one end the monopoly utilities completely manage the power system and on the other state legislators are making all the decisions. In 2019, New Hampshire carved its own innovative path of bringing the power (pun intended) back to the local level. Please do not undo this progress. Please support Community Power and urge your representative to vote down HB 315.

Phillip Stephenson is an energy consultant living in Hollis.

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