New Hampshire Senate Alters State Cap and Trade Program
The New Hampshire State Senate voted 18-6 to amend the state's cap and trade program, witch is part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), to allow utility companies more control over the use of auction proceeds for energy efficiency. The bill also changes a consumer rebate formula that would slightly decrease monthly rates for consumers. The bill now goes to the House, where leaders are unsure of its prospects as their body passed legislation requiring a repeal of the entire cap and trade program rather than just changing administrative functions.
New Hampshire joined RGGI in 2008 and under its law, the state sets a goal of reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by 10 percent by 2018 through instituting a regional cap and trade program with other states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. According to RGGI's website, the revenues collected from the carbon credit auctions and allowance trading must set aside 10 percent of the proceeds to assist low-income individuals and the remainder goes to projects that reduce fossil-fuel emissions through:
- Energy audits
- Weatherization of buildings
- Building code compliance
- Education and outreach
- Passive solar heating and ventilation
- Demand response programs to reduce peak load
- Energy efficiency related workforce development
- Revolving loan funds for energy efficiency investment
Under the Senate's new legislation, revenue proceeds earmarked for energy efficiency programs administered by the Public Utilities Commission would instead be shifted to an energy efficiency fund controlled by electric utilities. The bill also contains a provision to lower the threshold to trigger a consumer rebate due to costs associated with the cap and trade program. Critics of the bill said the new provisions would diminish a state energy efficiency grant program for very small reductions in consumer electricity bills (approximately 20 cents/month on average). Although the Senate bill does not require the state to leave the RGGI compact, like the House version, it does set up a mechanism to leave the program if two other compact states leave or if one state carrying 10 percent of the Northeast's energy load no longer participates.