Monday, June 15, 2015

Pipeline Manifesto - Serendipity - WIP

If you are reading this, you are probably already convinced that the NED pipeline project is a bad idea.   Most of you are concerned about the degradation of our ecosystems, safety, leaks, and damage to our groundwater and aquifers from blasting through the "Granite State."
You would think that people in other parts of the State would empathize with you.  You would expect outrage and a willingness to jump in to help when it is SO clear to us that the project is about corporate gain; not public convenience and necessity.
A poll by UNH showed that only 16% of respondents were familiar or very familiar with the NED pipeline project and among all respondents, only a small margin viewed it unfavorably.
How could nearly half the people favor the project? 
I wish WMUR would offer to run a PSA in response to the ad by the "Coalition to Lower Energy Costs."
The ad promises to reduce electricity and heating costs by building more pipelines.  This is speculative at best.  NY, which has plenty of pipelines and cheap gas, has electricity prices very close to our own.  Also, we have plenty of gas in the summer, so we already know what our lowest prices will be.  Oh, well except that we will be paying a new "reservation" fee on top of gas and transportation costs.  That fee is part of the debate over a pipeline tariff for ratepayers.  The utilities (3 of 4 in NH) want permission to pass onto electric customers the fee for reserving capacity on these pipelines.  If the utilities are able to sell that capacity to power generators, the customers will be reimbursed.  But what if the fee makes the gas more expensive for the power generators than just buying on the spot market as they do today?  In fact, the New England Power Generators Association is so against this idea that they have NOT backed it at all.  Originally the utilities wanted the power generators to pay the reservation fees.  They weren't having it.  They are building and converting to dual fuel (oil and natural gas) generating plants so that they have price protections when natural gas prices soar.  Fuel diversity is very important to  sustainable pricing and reliability.  The NEPGA is concerned about over reliance on natural gas.  And we should be too.  I'll go into why we shouldn't trust the judgement of these utilities in another installment, but for now, let's just take a practical approach to paying less for electricity.

I can help people reduce their electric bills TODAY.

There are two actions people can take to reduce their electricity costs.

 1.) Go to the PUC Website and shop for an independent  supplier.  This winter my average bill was $58/month with Coal Free eNH Power.  The rate I pay is about 8 cents/KWh and was locked in for 20 months.  Right now, Fairpoint Energy is offering a 6 month contract for 100% Wind energy for less than 9 cents/KWh.  The only drawback is that you do have to pay attention and shop around before your contract is up to get the best price and not get dumped back into the utility default rate when the contract ends.
Only about 25% of residential electric customers have made the switch to an independent supplier.  75% of customers are paying non-competitive or default rates from the utilities!  If enough of us switched to 100% renewable energy from a competitive supplier, it would send a strong message to the utilities and the markets about what we want to support.

Consider it like a local version of the divestment movement at colleges.  The utilities are the ones pushing these pipelines.  Let's push back!

2.) All of the utilities and independent suppliers seem to have special energy efficiency programs.  Also, you can go to to take advantage of state level programs.  Get an energy audit and find out what programs you are eligible for to help save energy.  Again, having a large number of people suddenly asking for help would signal the utilities and markets that we are serious about the direction we want to go instead of building more fossil fuel infrastructure.

These two actions and all the publicity we can give them would pack the kind of punch that would get people really excited and wake up other people in the State who are only likely to be moved by money.

Oh!  And when you start saving money, please consider donating some of it to PLAN NE to help fight the pipelines.

Next Day:
Serendipity.  Solar City came to see my neighbor about installing a leased solar PV system on his roof tonight.  He sent the consultant over to see me when they finished talking.  I was really interested in chatting with him about it as I've noticed that companies like SolarCity haven't been working in New Hampshire the way they do in Massachusetts and Vermont. 
I did look into buying a solar PV system a few years ago, but because we don't pay enough in taxes, we can't really take advantage of the federal tax credit.  Also, my electric bill tops out at about $58/month, so it would take a long time to reach a payback on the system.  When I looked into financing the system at the bank, they wanted collateral.  They won't accept the avoided costs as security on the loan.
What SolarCity does is install the system on your roof at no expense to you and then guarantees you a fixed contract for electricity rates.  They promise you will save 30% compared with the Eversource Default rate.
I need to look a little deeper into this and am waiting for a proposal for my own house, but it sounds like a great solution for someone who is prepared to pay extra for renewable energy from a competitive supplier.
If you can afford to buy a solar PV system yourself and can take advantage of the tax credits, you should go for it, but for my situation, a lease is a great option.
What came next is the Serendipity part.  It turns out that if you get a system installed, for every person you refer who also installs a system, you receive $250.  There's more to this deal that makes it even sweeter, but it gave me a terrific idea for fighting the pipeline.  For every person who signs up for SolarCity because of the pipeline, we could stipulate that the $250 go to the PLAN NE legal defense fund.  That will be who referred us.
I talked the solar consultant into coming to the pipeline opposition meeting tonight where he was welcomed to give a brief presentation.  What a great fundraiser this could be for us!
It just tickles me to think that we could actually fight back in a meaningful way that might give us the funds for lawyers and to run our own commercials!