Several recent articles have discussed biomass and the veto of HB-183. I stand with my colleague, Senator Jeb Bradley and many others advocating for overriding this veto.
As consumers’ electricity costs continue to rise, several legislative studies have confirmed that the real culprits in our ever-increasing electricity bills are the burgeoning cost of transmission and distribution. These costs come solely from the utilities that hold monopolies on these services, not from the competitive power generation marketplace. The actual cost of producing energy has gone down because it is subject to competitive market forces. In fact, those costs have gone so low that our local biomass generators can’t survive under current market conditions.
If these biomass plants close, we lose base load capacity, reduce the diversity of our energy sourcing and eliminate significant economic activity, including 900 New Hampshire jobs. We become more dependent on a single energy source (remember the oil embargo day?) and we lose a critical forest management tool used by many of our private and public landowners. HB-183 (and its predecessor SB-365, which passed but has been derailed by litigation filed by an out-of-state lobbying group, will preserve our biomass plants for three years, during which the study of micro-grids established by HB-183 can develop the concept of localized power generation to eliminate the skyrocketing charges imposed on ratepayers by the massive transmission/distribution monopolies.
There is a slightly higher cost to ratepayers (roughly $2.30/month) to maintain our biomass plants under SB-365 and HB-183; however, that additional cost ends after three years. If we lose our local biomass plants, the increased capacity cost (about $17 million a year — the same as keeping the plants open) is permanent and cannot be reduced or eliminated.
A recent op-ed assails foreign-owned businesses, despite a Plymouth State University study last year showing that foreign-owned companies employ 44,000 New Hampshire workers. “Where” a business is owned is irrelevant to the economic activity it produces. In the case of biomass, the economic activity ($250 million/year) all takes place here in N.H. The fuel (low-grade timber) is here in N.H.; the collection and processing of the fuel is done here in N.H.; the biomass plants are here in N.H.; and the employees, their families, and all the supporting small businesses for the biomass industry are here in New Hampshire.
The Legislature overwhelmingly supported HB-183 because a short-term investment in our biomass plants will maintain homegrown capacity, provide time to study localized electricity production and distribution (without exorbitant monopolized transmission costs), sustain jobs and the economy, and assure the health of the forests and trail systems which generate $600 million in recreation and tourism business in the state every year.
Please contact your state representatives and senators and tell to override the veto on HB-183. It’s one more step towards true energy independence.
(Republican Bob Giuda of Warren represents District 2 in the New Hampshire State Senate.)