“Shaheen, Hassan, Kuster and Pappas Announce $900,000 in Energy Efficiency Funds That Will Lower Heating Bills in New Hampshire.”
That was the headline on a recent press release from New Hampshire’s congressional delegation, celebrating its ability to bring home the federal bacon to Granite Staters.
“These investments, made possible through the bipartisan infrastructure law, will deliver important cost savings to families in New Hampshire,” said Rep. Chris Pappas.
But how much will New Hampshire families benefit compared to how much they are already spending?
One study from March 2023 found New Hampshire households pay an average of $373.16 a month in utilities, the second-highest in the country. Recent analyses put the state at number nine in the nation for highest out-of-pocket monthly energy expenses.
With New Hampshire spending more on energy per capita than nearly any other state, every little bit of savings helps. And in the case of $900,000 in federal grants, “little bit” is the accurate term, energy experts say.
According to the Energy Information Agency, Granite Staters consume about $5.7 billion in energy each year. That works out to more than $15.3 million spent each day.
Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen alongside Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas are touting a federal grant that covers about an hour and a half of New Hampshire energy consumption.
“I am glad that Exeter, Peterborough, and Harrisville are receiving this new federal funding to make energy efficiency upgrades, lower costs for families, and invest in workforce development,” said Hassan, referencing the towns that are eligible through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program.
But, under the grants, recipients must spend money upfront to get the grant money. So, the next impact is higher costs, not lower.
For example, “Peterborough and Harrisville are receiving a $700,000 award to retrofit 250 buildings to replace fossil-fuel heating systems with cold-climate heat pumps,” according to the delegation’s statement.
Appropriating $700,000 to retrofit 250 buildings to replace fossil-fuel heating systems with heat pumps may seem worthwhile at first glance. Heat pumps are generally seen as more efficient heating sources than gas-powered furnaces because they use small amounts of electricity to transfer heat from one location to another as opposed to using natural gas to generate their own heat.
According to The Wall Street Journal, though, it is more expensive to retrofit homes and buildings with heat pumps than it is to install them from the get-go. Spending taxpayer dollars to retrofit heating systems is actually an inefficient use of these funds.
But more significantly, this drop in the bucket comes from congressional Democrats who have opposed policies that could have a significant impact on energy prices without spending any tax dollars.
For example, Hassan has spent years opposing increased oil and gas production in the U.S. Instead, she backed President Joe Biden’s energy policies like shutting down the Keystone pipeline and restricting oil production. She pushed New Hampshire into the cap-and-trade Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, raising energy prices. And she has proposed federal tax increases on drilling and oil production.
Pappas and Kuster both voted against the Lower Energy Costs Act to increase domestic energy production, as well as the Strategic Production Response Act to increase oil and gas production on federal lands.
Plus, the entire delegation supports the Jones Act, an archaic law requiring the sea transport of cargo between U.S. ports to be performed by U.S.-built, U.S.-owned, U.S.-flagged, and U.S.-crewed vessels. That means petroleum products from Texas or Louisiana must be carried by America’s limited fleet to be shipped to an LNG facility in New England.
While Pappas did support a temporary waiver of the act during last winter’s energy shortage, he has also said the Jones Act is “essential.”
All of those policies have had a far larger impact on the monthly energy budget of Granite Staters than a $900,000 grant or any of the other small-donor energy programs touted by the New Hampshire delegation.
For example, a lack of natural gas pipeline to New Hampshire and northern New England hurts the state, said Christopher Ellms, deputy commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Energy. “It’s our reliance on liquefied natural gas and how that can present challenges, both in cost and making sure we have resources available to us,” he told NHJournal. “One thing that would be helpful is increased pipeline capacity, as that would give us a lot of comfort for a system that relies on natural gas.”
Despite representing a state with traditionally limited pipeline access, Kuster continues defending her opposition to the Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline, which would have supplied natural gas from Pennsylvania to New Hampshire.
“For New Hampshire and New England, natural gas continues to be our most critical need,” state Rep. Michael Vose, (R-Epping) chair of the House Committee on Science, Technology and Energy, told NHJournal. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, one-fourth of New Hampshire’s electricity is generated by natural gas.
The lack of pipelines means more reliance on fuel brought by ships, where, once again, the Jones Act hurts New Hampshire. For example, Ellms noted that Trinidad and Tobago supplies a great deal of the Granite State’s LNG.
“We can send American LNG overseas, but we can’t get it in New England,” Ellms said about the Jones Act, “so that’s certainly a hurdle to overcome.”
Simply suspending the Jones Act to allow foreign-made ships to transport domestic LNG between U.S. ports would save New England drivers 10 cents a gallon on gas. With Granite Staters buying about 1.4 million gallons a day, drivers would save more than the entire $900,000 grant in less than a week.
Based on the data, a policy of promoting domestic production and deregulating the energy sector would have far more impact on the bottom lines of New Hampshire businesses and families than the billions being spent on energy-grant giveaways.