Friday, March 27, 2009

New Hampshire Climate Action Plan Raises Questions About Future of State's Only Coal Power Plant

On March 25, Governor John Lynch’s Climate Change Task Force released the New Hampshire Climate Action Plan. The plan’s release is likely to raise some new questions about the future of the Granite State’s only coal burning power plant, Merrimack Station. In 2006, the state passed a law requiring Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH) to install scrubbers designed to reduce mercury and sulfur dioxide emissions at the plant. Since then, PSNH has increased the estimated cost of the scrubber project from $250,000,000 to $457,000,000. The increase has led many in the state to question whether keeping the plant open is worth the long-term costs to PSNH ratepayers, as well as to the environment.

The Climate Change Task Force worked for more than a year to create the plan, which lays out ambitious mid-term and long-term goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It recommends reducing emissions 20 percent below 1990 levels by 2025, and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. It also recommends a total of 67 actions that policy makers can take to start the hard work of achieving these goals.

The plan acknowledges that implementing all 67 of the recommended actions would only reduce emissions to 16.4% percent below 1990 levels by 2050, falling well short of the 80 percent target. This shortfall is explained as follows:

“This action plan contains those measures that the Task Force believes will be most effective in rapidly addressing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions over the next one to two decades while positioning the residents, government, businesses, industries, and not-for-profits to achieve still greater future reductions as technological, economic, political and social changes allow.”

This approach is worthy of praise in that it recognizes the need to take immediate action to curb global warming pollution. Still, the plan contains one rather obvious omission. It fails to call for the eventual shutdown of Merrimack Station. The 41-year old plant is responsible for 20 percent of New Hampshire’s greenhouse gas emissions, and the costly $457,000,000 scrubber installation project will do nothing to reduce these emissions. Replacing the plant with a cleaner alternative could make a big difference in the long-term.

This omission is particularly interesting given that the plan lists the burning of fossil fuels for energy production as one of three main sources of greenhouse gas emissions in New Hampshire. As a solution, the plan calls for the increased use of renewable, low-CO2 sources of energy to reduce the state’s reliance on fossil fuels. It also emphasizes the potential economic benefits of developing in-state sources of renewable energy:

“In addition, to the extent that in-state energy resources can reduce the dependence on imported fossil fuel, such resources will result in more dollars staying in New Hampshire, thus having a positive impact on non-energy sectors of the state economy.”

While the plan does not explicitly calling for the eventual closure of the Merrimack Station, it certainly raises some interesting questions about the future of the coal power in New Hampshire. PSNH customers will be asked to pay for the $457,000,000 cost of the current scrubber project, and for future any upgrades that will be need to keep the aging plant in compliance with state and federal environmental regulations.

State Senator Harold Janeway has proposed a bill, SB 152, that would require the Public Utilities Commission to compare the costs associated with keeping Merrimack Station open with those associated with alternative means for meeting the energy needs of PSNH customers. These alternatives include investment of renewable energy and energy efficiency measures. Either alternative would create new green jobs for New Hampshire, and help to protect the environment.

The public has a definite interest in learning more about the economic and environmental costs associated with the future operation of Merrimack Station. Let’s hope that lawmakers in Concord read through the lines and realize that the New Hampshire Climate Action Plan provides good reason for voting for SB 152.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New Hampshire Climate Action Plan Calls for 80% Reduction in State's Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2050

The New Hampshire Climate Action Plan released today by Granite State Governor John Lynch contains two ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It establishes a long-term goal aimed at reducing emissions to a level 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. It also recommends a mid-term goal aimed at reducing emissions to a level 20 percent below those present in 1990 by 2025.

 “Here in New Hampshire, we already recognize that climate change poses serious risks to the health of our citizens, to our quality of life and to our economic future,” Lynch was quoted as saying in a press release. “And we are already national leaders in efforts to cut pollution, to build a new energy future and to build a greener economy.”

“This report will help us build on the efforts we’ve already made to reduce the pollution that causes global warming and climate change.”

The plan states that the majority of New Hampshire’s greenhouse gas emissions are produced by the use of fossil fuels for energy, heat, and transportation. Its release comes at a time of intense debate over the future of the state’s only coal burning power plant.  

The New Hampshire Climate Change Task Force, formed by Lynch in December of 2007, worked for more than a year to produce the plan. It recommends a total of 67 actions that stake policy makers can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, broken down into ten areas of focus.

1. Maximize energy efficiency in buildings:

Maximize Efficiency in New Construction

Maximize Energy Efficiency in Existing Residential Buildings

Maximize Energy Efficiency in Existing Commercial, Industrial, and Municipal Buildings

Install Higher-Efficiency Equipment, Processes, and Systems

Increase the Use of Combined Heat and Power

Consider Alternative Rate Design

Upgrade Building Energy Codes

Increase Building Energy Code Compliance

Establish an Energy Properties Section in Real Estate Property Listings

Conserve Embodied Energy in Existing Building Stock

2. Increase renewable and low-CO2-emitting sources of energy in a long-term sustainable manner:

Promote Renewable Energy through the Electric Portfolio Standard (RPS) 

Increase Renewable and Low-CO2 Thermal Energy Systems

Promote Low- and Non-CO2-Emitting Electric Generation

Identify and Deploy the Next Generation of Electric Grid Technologies

Promote Low- and Non-CO2-Emitting Distributed Generation

Encourage the Use of Biogenic Waste Sources for EnergyGeneration

Implement Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)

Enable Importation of Canadian Hydro and Wind Generation

Allow Regulated Utilities to Build Renewable Generation

3. Support regional and national actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:

Support Stricter Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards

Support Fuel Economy Standards for Heavy-Duty Vehicles

Adopt a Low-Carbon Fuel Standard

Promote Advanced Technology Vehicles and Supporting Infrastructure

Support Strong Climate Action at the Federal Level

4. Reduce vehicle emissions through state actions:

Adopt California Low Emission Vehicle (CALEV) Standards

Create a Point-of-Sale Financial Incentive for Higher-Efficiency Vehicles

Install Retrofits to Address Black Carbon Emissions

Implement Commuter Trip Reduction Initiative

Increase Highway Automobile Efficiency

Address Vehicle Idling

Improve Traffic Flow

5. Encourage appropriate land use patterns that reduce vehicle-miles traveled:

Assess Greenhouse Gas Development Impact Fees

Streamline Approvals for Low- Greenhouse Gas Development Projects

Develop Model Zoning to Support Bus/Rail Transit

Develop Model Zoning for Higher-Density, Mixed-Use Development

Continue/Expand Funding, Education, and Technical Assistance to Municipalities

6. Reduce vehicle-miles traveled through an integrated multi-modal transportation system:

Improve Existing Local/Intra-Regional Transit (Bus) Service

Expand Local/Intra-Regional Transit (Bus) Service

Improve Existing Inter-City Bus Service

Expand and Improve Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure

Maintain and Expand Passenger Rail Service

Maintain and Expand Freight Rail Service

Implement a Stable Funding Stream to Support Public Transportation

Expand Park-and-Ride Infrastructure

7. Protect natural resources (land, water and wildlife) to maintain the amount of carbon fixed or sequestered:

Invest in Forests to Maximize Carbon Storage and to Avoid Net Forest Land Conversion

Optimize Availability of Biomass for Electricity and Heating within Sustainable Limits

Promote Durable Wood Products

Protect Agricultural Land

Maximize Source Reduction, Reuse and Recycling

8. Lead by example in government operations:

Establish an Energy Management Unit to Address State Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Establish an Energy Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Baseline Inventory for State Government

Establish a Self-Sustaining Fund for Energy Efficiency Projects in State Government

Provide for the Establishment of Local Energy Commissions

Include Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation in Programs and Planning

Promote Public School Siting and Building Aid to Reduce Energy Use

9. Plan for how to address existing and potential climate change impacts:

Develop a Climate Change Adaptation Plan for the State of New Hampshire

Develop and Distribute Critical Information on Climate Change

Promote Policies and Actions to Help Populations Most at Risk

Charge and Empower Public Health Officials to Prepare for Climate Change

Strengthen Protection of New Hampshire’s Natural Systems

Increase Resilience to Extreme Weather Events

Strengthen the Adaptability of New Hampshire’s Economy to Climate Change

10. Develop an integrated education, outreach and work-force training program:

Develop an Overarching Outreach and Education Plan

Include Energy Efficiency and Conservation in School Curriculum

Increase Energy Efficiency through Building Management Education Programs

Reduce Residential Energy Demand through Education and Outreach

Establish a Comprehensive Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Education Program

Create an Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Energy Systems Web Portal

The complete plan is now available in PDF form on the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services website. Click here to view the plan in its entirety.


Governor John Lynch to Unveil New Hampshire Climate Action Plan Today

Granite State Governor John Lynch plans to unveil the New Hampshire Climate Action Plan at a media event in Concord today, according to a press release issued by the NH Department of Environmental Services. The plan is the result of more than a years worth of work by the state’s Climate Change Policy Task Force. 

Details about the plan have not yet been made available to the public.

Useful Links:

NHDES: Climate Change Policy Task Force

Office of the Governor: Climate Change Efforts in New Hampshire

The event will be held in the Executive Council Chambers of the New Hampshire State House, located at 107 N. Main St in Concord. It begins at 1:00 p.m.