Author Archives: Harold Turner

About Harold Turner

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Harold Turner

2017 NH Business Energy Education Series: Vol 22 – “NH’s Energy Future is Now”: What did we learn?

 

Earlier this year, a consortium of clean energy interest groups issued a report under the “NH’s Energy Future is Now – Listening to New Hampshire” title ( see NHEnergyFuture.org).  Although I doubt that many NH businesses actually saw or read the print version of this report, several prominent NH businesses were featured in it including: Cranmore Mountain Resort; Hypertherm; Red Hook Brewery; and Worthern Industries.  For businesses operating in New Hampshire who have a keen interest in lowering their annual energy costs, this report together with the associated UNH reports referred to below, are worth reading to get a better perspective on the realities of energy choices in New Hampshire.  There is also more on YouTube.

Red Hook Brewery

 

Here are a few of my takeaways from this effort, that also relate to previous positions put forward in our 2017 NH Business Energy Education Series include:

 

A – Rates v. Costs

 Although we constantly hear about energy Rates, what consumers really pay are energy Costs.

Our actual costs = rates x quantities used

We have had, and will continue to have, high energy rates for energy commodities in New Hampshire compared to many other parts of the country.  High electricity and fuel rates in New Hampshire have been discussed in many of our prior posts.

Recent studies by the UNH Carsey School of Public Policy show that New Hampshire consumers actually pay equal to or less than national average monthly  Costs for energy.  Why? ……..because we use less, not because our rates are low.  In regions of the country where rates are lower, state policies and consumer demands have not pushed for adoption of efficiency strategies to lower consumption.  No matter what the rates are, find ways to use less ………and then you always pay less. You can use less of their stuff (commodities) by employing energy efficiency and self-generation alternatives.

FROM THE CARSEY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC POLICY: “Cost of Electrical Power in New Hampshire In 2015, electricity accounted for approximately 25 percent ($1.7 billion) of all energy expenditures in New Hampshire, and average retail electricity prices in the state, at 18.5 cents per kilowatt hour, were the eighth highest in the country and 47 percent higher than the U.S. average . The latter is also the case for New England as a whole. But despite these higher rates, the average monthly New Hampshire residential electricity bill was $115, similar to the U.S. monthly average of $114.6 New Hampshire residents pay 5.5 percent of their income for overall household energy-related expenses, similar to the overall U.S. resident portion of expenditures at 5.6 percent. In terms of commercial use, the average monthly New Hampshire electric utility bill in 2015 was actually lower than the U.S. average commercial bill, at $529 versus $671.“

 

B – Consumer Risks: Energy Efficiency & Distributed Renewables v. Big Central Utility Projects

As a consumer, if you are taking the capital risk of paying for large, long term energy solutions from a utility, its time to think twice about what technologies may impact that decision in the future.  Low cost energy efficiency measures and small distributed generation projects using renewable resources are far lower risk options than building large gas pipelines or long distance transmission lines.  New gas from fracking is here now, but there are no guarantees that long term, the current economics will hold up.  Technology disruptions happen all the time now, so let’s not bet the farm and take the risk on one or two BIG long term low tech options.

FROM THE CARSEY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC POLICY: Our findings suggest that there is no immediate need for New Hampshire to expand natural gas pipeline infrastructure. If the state wishes to intervene in the market by obligating ratepayer funds to reduce wholesale electricity costs, additional public investment in major pipeline infrastructure should wait until a rigorous study has been completed that models system wide natural gas flows and prices. This study should lead to an improved understanding of the difference between the technical and economic capacity of the existing system and explore opportunities to access more of the technical pipeline capacity in cost-effective ways. To date, no study of which we are aware has performed the level of rigorous analysis required to justify a major multidecadal contract obligating ratepayers, and moving ahead without such a study would essentially make ratepayers energy market speculators. Policy makers also may want to consider other options that carry less risk and a better return on investment, including better utilization of existing infrastructure and increased investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy.”

 

C – Growth in New Hampshire’s Economy is no longer tied to Energy use.

Notwithstanding the opinion that New Hampshire’s manufacturing base is worthy of some form of energy costs relief, our general economy is not failing.

FROM THE CARSEY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC POLICY: “New England has adapted to higher prices through energy efficiency and other energy management investments even as the combined gross domestic product (GDP) for all six New England states increased by 9.7 percent from 2005 to 2015, overall energy use declined by 9.6 percent”

 As I have stated many times in past blog posts, our efforts to help businesses reduce their energy costs should be targeted to our manufacturing base where it really matters the most for our job retention and job growth.

Cheers!

 SEE: https://youtu.be/aHhLcyKIrhg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2017 NH Business Energy Education Series: Vol 21 – It’s Time to Raise the Net Metering Project Size Limit to 5 MW

Concord – 13.8KW Residential Net Metering Solar Array

 

Most people, who already know something about “net metering”, are those homewowners or businesses who have put solar panels on their roofs.  Now it’s time for you to look at net metering in an entirely different way ……….even if you do know something about it.  It’s time to think BIGGER! Not so much because we expect to see thousands of new small power plants bigger than 1 MW springing up all over the state ………but because we already have over 200 MW of these plants > 1 MW sitting in the state being wasted (economically speaking)  by having to send their power out of state ………especially when we (the ratepayers) already spent most of the money to see them built in the first place years ago.  How is that possible you say?  Let me tell you the rest of the story:

 

Q1 – What is Net Metering?

Ans: It’s the ability to generate some or all of your own electricity and remain connected to the utility grid.  At times when you produce more energy that you are using (in real time), the excess flows back to the grid, is accounted for by your distribution company, and a credit is applied to your monthly bill.  For larger projects that are intended to generate much more power than they require, the energy can also be sold to other retail customers who contract with you to purchase your excess power.  These larger projects are commonly referred to as “group net metering” projects and sales occur between a willing buyer and a willing seller.

 

Q2 – What is the significance of the current 1MW size limit as it relates to 362-A, part of the LEEPA statute that allows for retail sales through Group Net Metering?

Ans: It is an arbitrary number.  It is not a number that otherwise is used in 362-A anywhere else.  Many years ago when net metering was first created in 362-A, the limit was 100kw and then later amended to 1000 Kw (or 1MW).

 

Q3 – What would be the significance of the proposed 5MW size limit as it relates to 362-A?

Ans: First, it brings the size limit at 5 MW, in line with all the other provisions under the original bill of 1978.

Second, on the heels of this year’s rule making by the NHPUC on Net Metering (call it NM 2.0), combined with the sale of the PSNH generation assets,  there is no reason to artificially constrain competition in the electrical generation marketplace, which only serves to keep prices higher.  For projects larger than 100Kw, there never was any possible “cross-subsidy” issue between Net Metering and Non-Net Metering customers, as the distribution companies already received their FULL payments for Transmission, Delivery, and all other costs ……….everything but retail energy services. There is no good justification for continuing to limit the Net Metering section of the NH LEEPA regulations to <1 MW, as it only harms producers and consumers (and our state economy) by restraining in-state commerce that could otherwise occur.

 

Q4 – Who gets to simply use the power generated by a Net Metering producer that is greater than 100kw in size……..and who gets to purchase power from them?

 

Ans: The generator themselves can use all the power they need behind the meter.  It is only the power that flows out the meter to the grid that can then be purchased by others:

Option #1-Directly by the host distribution company at the same cost (annual blended number) as what they pay their 3rd party supplier for “default” energy supply service for projects between 100 KW and 1000 KW (1 MW).  Excess power (going to the host distribution company) from the larger projects between 1 MW and 5 MW would be paid the value equal to the utility’s avoided costs for energy and capacity to provide default service as determined by the NHPUC in accordance with Puc 903.o2 (i).

Option #2- For projects that are certified for “group net metering”, the power can also be sold to other retail customers on the same distribution system, much like what you see from signing up for power by other 3rd party retail suppliers like…….. Direct Energy or others.

 

Q5 – How much power do we already have in the state from existing PURPA or Utility owned projects that would now be included in the 5MW proposal?

Ans: We have approximately 100 MW of wood fired projects, 50 MW of independent small hydropower projects (like Nashua’s) and another 66 MW of small hydro now owned by PSNH but soon to be owned by the winning bidder of their auction, Hull Street Energy LLC , who will fall into the same “bucket” as the other independent hydros.  All these projects are larger than 1MW and are not currently eligible to participate in net metering sales in NH. I don’t have a figure on our existing solar, but it is small compared to the other two groups.  Likewise, I don’t have a figure for wind projects that would be eligible, but again that would be small compared to the wood and hydro projects.

The combination of the existing wood and hydro projects alone are capable of generating about 10% of the kwhs typically purchased by NH customers on an annual basis.  NH electricity consumers have already paid for the majority of the costs for the original construction of these assets.  In the case of the former PSNH assets, it was paid for through the normal utility rate base process (costs plus a guaranteed R.O.I). In the case of the PURPA created wood and hydros, it was through their original long term power supply contracts of 15-20 years reflecting the utilities “avoided costs”, largely issued in the 1980’s, with no guaranteed R.O.I. or firm capacity payments.

All of these projects can serve to be “behind-the meter” projects or “load reducer” projects from a utility grid perspective, to keep our own energy and energy dollars inside of New Hampshire ………….if our laws allowed it.  They already are fully interconnected to our distribution systems …………..and currently sending their power outside NH ………… because no law automatically allows them to sell it inside of NH.  One of our four utility company companies currently would have to “choose” to purchase it as part of their default service power mix.  Only the NH Electric Co-op currently “chooses” to do so.

 

Ex.-Biomass Generator

Ex.-Hydropower Generator

Q6- What would be the construction cost be to replace these existing QF projects in-kind with new ones today?

I can’t give you an exact figure as they vary so much project to project, but it’s safe to say that it would be somewhere between 2.5 to 4 times their current values.

 

Q7- Will this change serve to increase supply competition and lower prices for consumers?

Ans: Yes, if you believe in the basic principles of supply and demand.  Electrical energy was once only provided by a monopoly utility provider, but today we currently have retail options from multiple 3rd party providers.  However, these 3rd party re-sellers are still very large national companies or simply “middle men” that stand between the producers and the consumer (much like we see in healthcare).  Net Metering sales eliminate the out-of-sate middle men “re-sellers”, so that consumers can access better pricing and longer terms options for electricity directly from our own smaller in-state producers.

 

Q8- How does this change benefit consumers who decide not to buy this power?

Ans: This change opens the bandwidth of competition in the retail marketplace.  Long term, we expect to see it create new supplies as well. Short term, we expect that even this small (<10%) amount of in-state power sales from existing projects will help to lower the pricing curve for all retail customers by introducing greater competition.  Additionally, these in-state purchases will reduce line losses and reduce existing and future increases in Transmission charges & Capacity charges ….. all associated with purchases that come from ISO-NE, thereby helping all consumers.  Expanding in-state power sources in this way is one of the few actions New Hampshire can take just for New Hampshire consumers and our New Hampshire economy.

 

Q9 – How does this change benefit the producers?

Ans: Based upon an agreement struck between the NHPUC and our electrical utilities during the deregulation of the electrical industry almost 20 years ago, the utilities were no longer required to purchase power from QF facilities after their contracts expired.  The utilities were only required to “wheel” the power out-of- state to ISO-NE.  The producers received the same day (spot market) wholesale rates, the lowest that ISO-NE has. Many producers view this as a violation of Federal PURPA law, but the cost of challenging PSNH at the NHPUC or the FERC was astronomical.  As net metering has evolved over this same period of time, first up to a 100kw size cap and presently at a 1MW limit, selling QF power under New Hampshire’s Net Metering laws became far more practical and accepted by the public.  This final change from 1 to 5 MW allows all of the QF generators in the state to sell some or all of their power (depending on their size) directly to retail customers in NH on a willing buyer-willing seller basis. There are no mandated prices under a net metering generator – net metering customer agreement.  This simply both have to be on the same distribution system.

 

Q10 – How does this change benefit someone like the City of Nashua, who owns two small hydropower projects?

Ans: The City of Nashua owns two QF hydro facilities, one of which is small enough (under 1MW) to participate in Net Metering and does now, but the other is not currently eligible at 3 MW.  They can’t presently net meter their own power to themselves on the 3 MW project, they can only sell it to the grid (ISO-NE) or to another 3rd party willing to offer them a contract, as they currently do now with the NH Electric Co-op until 2024.

Jackson Mills Hydro – Nashua – 1 MW

Mines Falls Hydro – Nashua – 3 MW

 

Q11- How does this change benefit other municipalities that don’t own projects themselves?

Ans: Our municipalities are large purchasers of electricity.  They have the scale to leverage their buying opportunities on bulk commodities. Net Metering projects are not structured to sell to small purchasers on a retail level like homeowners, as their primary operation is to manufacture goods or produce power.  Net Metering projects will seek out large buyers like municipalities.

 

Q12 – How does this change benefit New Hampshire’s general economy?

Ans: By now, nearly every consumer understands that the Northeast region of the country,  and New Hampshire in particular, has high electricity and fuel costs. Additionally, in many other parts of the country, the electrical grid is changing rapidly.  Consumers are looking for more choices and large centralized power plants are no longer being constructed with the deregulation of both wholesale and retail energy supplies.  Even though fuel prices are relatively low today in the country due to expanded sources of oil and natural gas, NH consumers have not experienced corresponding reductions in their electrical rates.  With the final deregulation of PSNH and sale of their generating assets, there is now the opportunity for NH to manage itself in a new way to control some of its costs; use existing in-state resources differently; and keep more of its energy dollars in the state.

Changing our net metering regulations from 1 to 5 MW is a good first step to the future.  It is one part of how we can lower costs through competition and keep tens of millions of our energy dollars in the state every year.

 

Q13 – How does this change benefit our manufacturing base in particular?

Ans: Our manufacturing base represents our largest buyers of electricity on a single site basis.  They have the scale to leverage their buying opportunities on bulk commodities. Net Metering supply projects are not structured to sell to small purchasers on a retail level like homeowners, as their primary operation is to manufacture goods or produce power.  Net Metering projects will seek out large buyers like manufacturers.

Additionally, NH manufacturers are well positioned to take advantage of the higher size limit to undertake or expand their own projects to become net metering generators using a more diverse set of technological options, including solar; co-generation; and some limited hydro opportunities.

 

ReVision Energy – Wirebelt Company

 

Q14 – Would this change help to attract more companies (ex.- Amazon) to New Hampshire?

Ans: Yes, providing large companies more choices as to how they purchase and/or produce their electricity is very important.  There any many national and international brands that already have their own sustainability energy programs in place that guide their operations at every location. This change would fit into their needs and improve our recruitment chances.

 

Q15 – Would this change help reduce Transmission and Distribution System line losses?

Ans: Yes, we lose around 5% of our electrical energy on the grid due to extensive Transmission and Distribution line distances from large central power plants.  Net Metering projects are referred to as DER (Distributed Energy Resources) supplies because they are smaller and scattered throughout the distribution systems of each electric utility.

 

Q16 – How can Net Metering projects offer customers longer term fixed price power rates?

For the most part, most QF projects don’t use fuel at all (ex.- solar, wind, and hydro) or are using non-traditional fuels with some built in price stability.  Wood fired projects burn wood chips, but they are locally sourced and have better opportunities to stabilized prices because wood chips are not a worldwide commodity driven by supply and demand. Co-generation projects burn fuels, but they typically are dual fuel capable and can fuel switch over to other on-site stored fuel supplies during peak use periods in the winter when fuel prices can spike due to extreme weather and/or supply constraints.  Trash-to-Energy projects are stabilized by their long term trash hauling contracts. Methane (landfill) projects burn existing on-site fuels.

 

Q17- Are there other tangible benefits for NH in doing his?

Ans: Yes, more competition attracts more entrepreneurs and investors for new clean energy projects.  Investing capital and growing jobs in NH is good for our economy. Clean energy projects also attract younger workers who have grown up in the more recent solar and wind power era. Access to lower cost and longer term electricity will specifically help our industrial base and assist NH companies to retain jobs and grow jobs in NH.  The ability of our municipalities to invest in their own projects, or simply buy lower cost power from other projects, serve to lower taxes burdens for all members of those communities.

 

Q18- Is there a good reason for not making this change now?

Ans: No, making this change now at the same time as the liquidation of the PSNH generation assets, is the perfect time.  New Hampshire needs the courage to stand up for New Hampshire’s economic interests.  Other states (like MA) are already shifting ISO-NE costs to New Hampshire through the implementation of their “plans”.  Doing nothing is not an option.

 

Now, none of this prevents a business or municipality from deciding to build a new power project to become a stand alone net metering municipal or industrial project…… or a group net metering project.  In fact it serves to improve their chances of sizing a project appropriate to their chosen technology and/or power needs.  However, their pricing point for any excess energy they sell back to their utility or to a group net metering customer is very competitively priced, at or below, the default service energy price.  But this is New Hampshire, and in our quest to lower energy prices for all customers, new projects will have to be configured in such a way as to be fair to all customers whether they choose to participate in net metering or not. So, let’s get this done now and open up the bandwidth of energy competition to, in one form or another, help all NH electric customers lower their costs. We can do this New Hampshire!

2017 NH Business Energy Education Series: Vol 20 – It’s Lonely in Hearing Room A Guest Blog by D. Maurice (“Don”) Kreis, NH Consumer Advocate

It’s Lonely in Hearing Room A

Guest Blog by D. Maurice (“Don”) Kreis  Consumer Advocate, NH Office of the Consumer Advocate

Think of this as an on-line personal ad, or maybe an OK Cupid profile.

Handsome, articulate, charming and principled fellow (please excuse the self-aggrandizement; the genre requires it) seeks partner of either gender, with similar qualities, to share intrigue and adventure in pleasant, naturally lit setting on Fruit Street in Concord.  Frequent jaunts to historic downtown setting also required, plus occasional interludes at hotels.

The “pleasant setting” is Hearing Room A at the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).  By “historic downtown setting” I mean the State House. The reference to hotels is an allusion to the fact that meetings of key regional bodies like the New England Power Pool and ISO New England tend to take place in windowless ballrooms in generic hostelries in Massachusetts. There’s no point in sugar-coating this; as anyone who has ever experienced online matchmaking can testify, the truth comes out sooner or later.

So, you may be wondering, why am I trolling for partners on this blog in my capacity as New Hampshire’s Consumer Advocate, tasked by statute with representing the interests of residential utility customers at the PUC?

The answer is twofold.  First, to state the obvious, energy is the lifeblood of the economy that sustains us as individuals.  Second, in discharging its role as the primary regulator of the public utilities that provide us with so much of our energy, the PUC has an explicit statutory mission to be the arbiter between the interests of utility owners and utility customers.

My office plays a critical role in helping the PUC do that; we assure there will be some weight on the “customer” side of the scale.  But here’s a critical point:  Our job is to represent the interests of residential utility customers; we cannot and do not advocate on behalf of commercial and industrial users of energy.

One might think the relationship I seek is doomed.  In a market economy, aren’t consumers and businesses natural enemies, at least when the question is how to regulate business?

Nope. Residential customers and business customers of public utilities have vastly more in common than they might think.  In particular, we have a shared interest in keeping each rate-regulated utility’s revenue requirement as low as possible, which means making sure utility investments are prudent, least-cost, and meet the so-called “used and useful” test – i.e., are actually used to provide the service covered by the rates.

The interests of all customers, of whatever rate class, are likewise united when it comes to getting more work from each kilowatt-hour or dekatherm of energy consumed.  The ineluctable reality is that when it comes to squeezing the next unit of work out of the electricity grid or natural gas pipeline network, megawatts and ‘negawatts’ (i.e., savings from energy efficiency) are fungible.  According to a recent joint utility filing at the PUC, the negawatts are the cheapest option for electric consumers – four cents per kilowatt-hour compared to six cents for natural gas generation, nine cents for renewables and ten cents for nuclear or coal-fired electricity.

Hence the fervent commitment of my office, on behalf of residential customers, to the Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) approved by the PUC last year.  An EERS means New Hampshire is committed to “all cost-effective energy efficiency,” which in this instance means a 3.1 percent reduction in electric sales in between 2018 and 2020 (and a slightly smaller reduction in natural gas sales) achieved via programs funded by ratepayers through charges on their electric and natural gas bills. We agreed to leave the utilities in place as program administrators for at least those three years, rather than replace them with a third party as has happened in Maine, Vermont and elsewhere.

The math is the same whether you’re a residential ratepayer or a large commercial customer.  Cost effective energy efficiency reduces everyone’s energy bills – that’s the reason for subsidizing them via nonbypassable charges – at the same time individual customer co-pays make economic sense because of the individual bill savings they produce.

One could make similar points about grid modernization, currently on hold at the PUC while the agency ponders the report submitted in March by the stakeholder working group convened to ponder these issues.  All customers would benefit from aggressive efforts to take full advantage of emerging technologies, but the utilities resist these efforts because they inevitably involve opening up the distribution system to solutions and investments made by third parties and even customers themselves.

Additional examples abound – everything from the need for time-varying rates (because appropriate price signals could help reduce costs for all) to the deployment of utility-scale battery storage to the question of whether electric utilities should be allowed to invest in natural gas pipeline capacity, sell the capacity to unregulated merchant generators that are mostly outside New Hampshire, and force all Granite State customers to guarantee the cost recovery.

My point is not to paper over the legitimate differences of opinion that exist, in all quarters, about these questions.  Rather, my contention is that non-residential utility customers are too often absent from the conversation – perhaps based on the mistaken assumption that what’s good for investor-owned utilities is good for investor-owned businesses generally.

Consider that the push to restructure the electric industry – a successful initiative by most accounts, and something the utilities resisted via litigation and otherwise – was driven in the first instance by commercial and industrial customers of the utilities.  Sadly, these days the only non-utility businesses that participate directly in PUC proceedings are not there as customers. They intervene as subsidy seekers, would-be competitors of utilities, or potential providers of services to them.

New Hampshire needs an alliance of commercial and industrial utility customers that can help the Office of the Consumer Advocate do right by all ratepayers.  It may not be the most romantic of partnerships, but it has every prospect of producing longterm happiness – or, in other words, safe and reliable service at the lowest possible cost.

 

Maurice (“Don”) Kreis, head of New Hampshire’s Office of the Consumer Advocate, is a former general counsel of the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission who has also served as a hearing officer at the Vermont Public Utility Commission and a professor at Vermont Law School. He writes a regular column for the news web site indepthnh.org called Power to the People.

 

2017 NH Business Energy Education Series: Vol 19-What are Zero Net Energy Buildings (ZNEB)?

Simply stated, Zero Net Energy Buildings produce as much energy (or more) than they use.  Also referred to as Zero Net, Net Zero or Zero Net Energy (ZNE), I have lived in a ZNE home for over 5 years now and we started “designing” it (at least in my mind) long before purchasing the property it now sits on.  Take a look at the first video we created in October, 2010, shortly after closing on the land, while walking the site right HERE: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGIJdxICg5c .  It’s not too exciting I know, it was windy and the microphone was not great, but it was the beginning of a long process that we can now look back on that was very successful.

Why do it? Because we could! Really, that was the whole point of building a ZNE home way back then; adding an educational website to go with it; and explaining/demonstrating to the public that the technologies and economics required to do it were already available to all of us. Seven years have gone by (fast) since the first logging skidder entered the lot to clear trees for a driveway, and even though ZNE buildings are still not “mainstream” construction today, I am very surprised by how much they have been adopted all over the country…..and the world since then.  I never would have imagined 10 years ago, when we first began searching for land to do this, that the country would evolve this quickly in this direction.  I’m no genius (reminded every day), but I do put my money where my mouth is.

If this topic, or our project, even remotely interests you, here are lots of places you can go to see/learn more about it:

WEBSITE: http://rcmzeroenergy.com/

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/rcmzeroenergy

YOUTUBE:Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/RCMZeroEnergy

NEWSLETTER: http://us3.campaign-archive1.com/?u=439839742a4f304f229273a83&id=e30f67c32a

NESEA: http://www.nesea.org/project-case-study/rose-cottage-project/general

NH HOME MAGAZINE: http://bit.ly/1AKnjna

HOUZZ: https://www.houzz.com/projects/334244/The-ROSE-Cottage-Project

CNET: https://www.cnet.com/news/bosch-pushes-sensor-tech-green-building-and-automated-driving-at-ces-2014/

MARVIN: https://hastingsview.com/2014/01/13/peoples-choice-winner-netzero-and-a-true-team-effort/

BOSCH: https://www.proudgreenhome.com/whitepapers/secrets-to-creating-your-high-performance-home/

PROUD GREEN HOME: https://www.proudgreenhome.com/news/zero-energy-building-construction-moving-to-mainstream/

Did you take a look?

If yes, you got it, it should have been clear that, even back then, we were intentionally demonstrating that something ZNE did not have to be small or unattractive or plain or stark to be ZNE. You don’t have to go “without”, you simply have to do it more efficiently and with tighter design and construction standards…… and also use some technology.  10 years ago, a lot of the early attempts to go Net Zero were not very commercially appealing.  After all, you actually want to live in a home and feel “normal”, and then be able to resell it later if you want to. Today you can go around the country and see all sizes and types and shapes of fantastic buildings that are ZNE, which was also our point when we started.  Builders are now creating entire developments that are Zero Net.  Heck, whole communities are passing resolutions to be “Zero Net” by certain dates in the future. Energy efficient buildings, which by their very nature have low energy consumption, can be complimented with new technologies and renewable energy features to completely negate their total energy needs in the course of a 365 day cycle. In particular, our follow-up newsletters have included links to some of these projects located all over country that are ZNE or near ZNE.

Bingo! It’s simply easier and more cost effective (today) now to accomplish it, after technology pricing points have fallen and early adoption has cleared the way. We installed our solar panels and went live on the grid 9 months before achieving building occupancy, running on our own solar power for the construction of the project ………and consequently have had a surplus in our utility net energy “bank”ever since. Today, nearly 6 years after our solar installation, new solar panels can produce 50% more output at the same size and cost half as much as what we used on this project…….and despite that, we are well past midway of recovering our energy generation and efficiency investments in less than 10 years. Technology innovation is not going to stop, in fact, it is driving our economy and changing our lives every day. It may look a little different in the “built environment”, but there is rapid change there none the less.

ROSE COTTAGE PROJECT -Oct 2012 (Photo by Intrepid Aerial Photography)

Imagine for a moment if your electrical energy and fuel costs were negative every year ……….for 5 years, like ours.  Now add that up for 10, 15, 20, 25 years.  Does that light bulb start to go bright? Anyone (we are really talking corporate America here) who is applying a hard 18-24 month payback criteria to evaluate energy investments simply has it wrong.  I know, let the arrows fly, I’m good at ducking. Please……… calculate your R.O.I. on energy investments, not your payback in years.  In my humble opinion, that applies to all capital projects.  Yes, it is a simpler decision for homeowners to justify the investment, if they have the money, because their planning horizons are longer.  For most home owners, where else do you find double digit investment return opportunities ………investing in yourself, no less.  Businesses have boards and stockholders ……..and even worse, “Wall Street”, looking for quarterly returns to hit quarterly targets.  However, you can’t afford to be your own worst enemy in business either.  You are in new England. You are in New Hampshire. Energy prices over the long term don’t go down ……. they only go up.  New Hampshire energy policies don’t sit on an island either, as the 10-state ISO-NE runs the grid we are part of. Expecting someone else (government, utilities, regulators, politicians, whoever…….) to somehow magically lower your energy costs,without doing harm to someone else in the process, is simply NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. I’m ready to duck again! However, that is the truth as I see it.  It does not win me a lot of friends on my own side of the political isle. Question: Have you looked at how much money your company is paying towards the regulated utility company’s fixed costs for Transmission and Distribution and Capacity?? ……….I rest my case.

ROSE COTTAGE PROJECT- 2014 (Photo by John W. Hession)

Look HERE: http://nhenergy.blogspot.com/2017/09/solar-power-in-nh-part-5-financing.html to find a good solar article and a solar calculator done by Professor Mike Mooiman at Franklin Pierce University here in New Hampshire.  He writes a killer energy blog.  His spreadsheet calculator (which you can download and use) is set up for residential options for solar investments.  It does not include an IRS depreciation or expensing option, which would be included for a “business” purchase.  It also does not include the option of using a combination of debt and equity, which is also used for many “project” financing business models…… but it will help you ballpark a basic project.  Businesses who may be looking to install a solar PV system <100KW have a lot to get excited about in New Hampshire.  Larger businesses who might need a much larger electrical generator should examine co-generation alternatives, especially if you have access to natural gas and don’t have a lot of roof or land area for solar……… too bad for you that nobody was advocating for you at the NHPUC in the most recent net metering rate case!

If you truly want to spend less money on buying fuel and electricity in New Hampshire………….simply buy less.  You buy less by investing in: building and process efficiency; new technologies that don’t use fuel (like air-air or air-water or water-water heat pumps); and technologies to produce some of your own electricity.  Invest in enough of that stuff, and then you can head towards a “zero net energy” balance …..if you want.  Hey, spend less money on your lobbyist!  Remember, it’s not rocket science……….it’s building science!

  

2017 NH Business Energy Education Series: Vol 18 – Purchasing Electricity directly from ISO-NE Guest Blog by Gus Fromuth

‘Direct-from-grid’ electricity: a cost-saving option

Hands-on purchasing gives larger users a chance to benefit from wholesale pricing

Guest Blog  by Gus Fromuth,   FREEDOM ENERGY LOGISTICS

 

It’s well known that the price of electricity is high in New England, and specifically high in New Hampshire. But even with that reality, there are solutions to mitigate the issue, specifically for heavy users.

During a four-day period from May 4 to May 7, when electricity pricing in the New England wholesale market reached an unusual low, many of the region’s largest wholesale energy users were actually paid to use electricity.

The average price of electricity was negative, so instead of paying for the electricity that they used, they received a credit for the amount that they used. This is something that all large users should be aware of; not many typical users are aware that there is a framework in place to navigate the grid and lessen the constant burden of electricity pricing.

In 2014, ISO-NE implemented policy enhancements to the wholesale energy market that allowed electricity prices to go beyond zero to being negative during certain hours. These changes allowed generators to submit price offers for each hour of the day based on their actual cost of fuel, including negative price offers.

At times of excess energy on the grid, certain generators have made operational decisions to continue producing free and even negative-priced energy rather than shut down and then restart again hours later. It’s called buying direct from the New England Power Pool via hands-on purchasing, and it’s a reality. Large-scale manufacturers are among the businesses that can actually benefit from these market movements.

Freedom Energy Logistics is working with its customers one-on-one to encourage them to take advantage of the “direct-to-grid” purchasing process based on those policy changes at ISO-NE.

One of our customers, Shipyard Brewing Company of Portland, Maine, recently reaped the benefits.

“We’ve been buying directly from the New England Power Pool for almost a decade now and have done extremely well,” said Paul Hendry, plant manager at Shipyard.

Simply said, while energy costs are indeed high, it’s a great time to be purchasing electricity wholesale.

How does this help the general New Hampshire resident? It’s economic development smart. We often hear that the cost of energy is among the leading barriers to businesses locating and operating in New Hampshire. Such positive results of business-friendly policy improvements and creative energy buying strategies are a welcome change in tune.

This article appears in the July 21 2017 issue of New Hampshire Business Review …….with permission to reprint by the author.

Gus Fromuth, managing director of Freedom Energy Logistics, is a founding member of the NEPOOL Market Participant End User Sector.

 

The Freedom Team

5 Dartmouth Dr. Ste 301
Auburn, NH 03032

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