By Rep. David Borden
Publicly assisted programs to reduce energy consumption have made a difference in New Hampshire.
The School Board in Manchester invested $3 million in energy efficiency in its schools and found that $1 million was saved in the first year alone.
The town of Rye has reduced its energy costs by 25 percent with direct impact on the town budget.
Thousands of residents have tightened up their homes, installed more efficient boilers or even put solar panels on roofs. Cooperatively owned manufactured housing developments in New Hampshire have reduced their energy consumption dramatically.
Through the "Core" programs our electric utilities have invested millions of dollars in helping residents and businesses reduce energy consumption.
But New Hampshire efforts at energy efficiency lag far behind all other Northeastern states and reach only a small portion of these who need them.
The more than 30,000 New Hampshire families who live at the poverty line are hit hardest by this brutal winter cold, often having to choose between food and fuel.Some homes have 2-inch-thick walls, single-pane windows and allow cold air to flow freely underneath the building, meaning residents spend a much higher percentage of their income on staying warm.If they have outside oil tanks, the fuel can congeal in extreme cold. If they can't afford oil company minimum payments, people may have to buy expensive kerosene by the gallon locally to get them through the night.
New Hampshire spends less than any other state in the Northeast on energy efficiency. This costs the state, its businesses and our neighbors an extra $2 billion each year, or about $2,000 per family and 30 percent of a business' energy bill.
To cut $2 billion out of our annual energy bill would take an investment of about a billion dollars a year for 10 years. This investment would go toward creating zero-net energy buildings for manufacturing facilities, for dramatically reducing the energy burden on small businesses and homeowners, for reducing municipal and state energy costs. But this investment would also create 15,000 new jobs in the state during those 10 years, according to a University of Massachusetts study.
How do we proceed?
First, ensure that any additional use of public money is an investment, not a tax.Funds must be leveraged so that a dollar invested generates at least three dollars of private investment and five or six dollars in immediate savings.We have learned that investments in energy efficiency produce dramatic results in New Hampshire.
The state is home to at least $13 billion in institutional funds, mostly invested out of state. We need to develop a process by which these funds can be invested at home with relatively little risk.
Second, we need to create incentives for the electric and gas utilities to invest in energy efficiency.
And finally, we need to stop raiding dedicated funds like the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative money to supplement the state budget.
David Borden is a state representative for Rockingham County District 24 representing Rye and New Castle.