Clean energy technologies can benefit us – but we need a strategy!
by Roger Stephenson, Northeast Regional Advocacy Director, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Rep. Peter Somssich, District 27/ Portsmouth
Jerry Seinfeld once said: “No one likes change except a wet baby.” Most of us would just as soon avoid change but, like it or not, the fossil fuels to which we’re accustomed are a dying breed. Science says we must cut emissions pollution in half by 2030. Fortunately, we are in the midst of dramatic technological innovations that allow us to use non-polluting renewable energy efficiently at affordable prices. The three main components of this energy transition are efficiency, electricity, and renewable energy sources.
Nationwide renewable electricity generation has nearly doubled over the last decade; close to 90 percent of the expansion has come from wind and solar. The technologies available to New Hampshire a decade ago are nothing like those today. And while emerging technologies like renewables-based hydrogen and long duration energy storage show potential, New Hampshire already has the technologies it needs to begin. Below we explore beneficial existing technologies available now—provided we have supportive state strategies.
Heating and cooling accounts for half of all residential energy consumption. Less than a generation ago electric heat pumps were a poor alternative for New Hampshire, because heat pump efficiency crashed with colder temperatures. Today’s heat pumps can provide heat even when outside temperatures dip as low as -15 Fahrenheit. And this technology offers heating in winter and efficient air conditioning in summer.
Progress in recent years has helped make the case for offshore wind even stronger. The federal commitment to 30,000 MW by 2030 is huge and important for New Hampshire. (At full power, one 13 MW turbine provides a household’s daily electricity in under 7 seconds!) Four hundred thousand Massachusetts homes will get their electricity from an offshore wind project approved just this month.
Roof top, community, or utility scale solar energy is being deployed and demand is growing (prices have fallen 45 percent over the past five years). Trade in your oil-fired hot water heater for an efficient electric one and presto—free hot water powered by panels and no household emissions!
We’ll need energy storage to grow renewables in New Hampshire. Advances in technology are bringing battery storage to consumers today: lithium-ion batteries are now 73 percent cheaper than six years ago. Storage facilitates can eventually squeeze out coal and gas fueled power plants. Battery storage is available to homes and businesses and can be developed at “utility scale” too. Storage lowers residential electric bills, strengthens resilience to power outages and contributes to cleaner air.
The physics behind combustion remains the same regardless of fuel efficiency. For every gallon of gas burned, about 20 pounds of CO2 is released into the air. In addition to reducing vehicle miles traveled, or trading in for a more efficient vehicle, driving an electric car (e.g a new F150-Lightning truck!) is how individuals can make the biggest difference. When more EVs enter the market with attractive incentives, people will want this proven technology.
We must deploy more “Large Clean Energy Technologies.” But an equally intensive effort must be made to drive demand down for heating oil, natural gas, gasoline and electricity – by doubling down on energy efficiency and weatherization of homes. Efficiency can emerge from “Smaller Common-Sense Home Improvement Technologies” purchased at local hardware stores. Efficiency measures have resulted in a 43 percent reduction of energy use during the period 1977-2017, an amount that is 30 times the energy generated by renewable energy sources. Small efficiency technologies are available today.
Cold beverages, hot showers, and reliable transportation must and will still be there in 2030. But supportive state strategies are essential to meeting efficiency, renewable, and emissions targets. Are you interested in cleaner air, new transportation solutions, buttoning up your home or business, and increasing renewable energy options and reliability? Make your comments known. Every three years New Hampshire must update its “10-Year State Energy Strategy.” The Governor’s Office of Strategic Initiatives is about to begin updating the 2018 strategy and is accepting public comment until June 4. Public comment can be sent to OSI by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roger Stephenson, Northeast Regional Advocacy Director, Union of Concerned Scientists
Rep. Peter Somssich, District 27/ Portsmouth