(The Center Square) – New Hampshire cities and towns will face increased scrutiny from the state as they shift to renewable energy sources, under a GOP-backed plan signed into law by Gov. Chris Sununu.
The new law requires the state Department of Energy to conduct a review of the legal authority of local governments to restrict the use of natural gas and other fuels used for energy in homes and buildings as they look to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
The review will look at whether municipalities have the authority to “take any action that restricts or prohibits or has the effect of restricting or prohibiting the types or fuel sources of energy production which may be used, delivered, converted, or supplied to customers.”
The legislation signed by Sununu is a watered down version of the original bill, which sought to prevent local governments from pursuing policies such as bans on new natural gas hook-ups to meet carbon reduction goals.
Several communities, including Concord and Portsmouth, have set so-called “net-zero” carbon reduction goals that include a shift to reliance on wind, solar and other renewable energies. So far, none have banned fossil fuels.
The new law comes as state utility regulators weigh new rules for “community power agreements” that are aimed at helping reduce municipal energy costs.
Last week, the state Public Utilities Commission delayed consideration of new regulations for the plans, which will give cities and towns the authority to purchase their own power to help lower skyrocketing energy costs.
Republican lawmakers who backed the plans said they were concerned about the impact of any local bans on fossil fuels that could drive up costs for energy consumers. Democrats opposed the move, arguing that it would block local efforts to reduce emissions scientists say are contributing to a warming planet.
As inflation reaches a 40-year high, energy companies around the country are warning that consumers will see significantly higher electric bills this summer. Ongoing supply chain issues and Russia’s war in Ukraine have disrupted global energy markets, driving prices for higher natural gas.
Overall, the average American home saw its electric bill jump 4% in February compared to a year ago, according to the US Department of Energy.
The state Energy Department has until next July to complete a report on its review on local energy restrictions.