Locals going loco

This synthetic carnival villa is probably not what the Lorax meant when he warned against biggering and biggering."

This synthetic carnival villa is probably not what the Lorax meant when he warned against biggering and biggering." Image: Meagan Fisher via flickr.

I live in New Hampshire. If Democratic Governor John Lynch and the COO of the state’s largest utility corporation, Gary Long, prevail, we’ll soon commence a $1.1 billion construction project to upgrade a transmission line that will bring power from Quebec’s elaborate network of hydroelectric dams to New England electricity markets. The project, dubbed The Northern Pass, will be a short term boon for the City of Franklin—one of the more depressed urban centers in the Granite State.

If you believe Public Service of New Hampshire, and economist Lisa Shapiro, bringing in 1,200 megawatts will generate 1,200 jobs. At least, that’s what they said at the official announcement ceremony in Franklin’s City Hall, just three short weeks before a close mid-term election.

There is, at least, one major problem with this plan. We have not demonstrated that we need the power.

Is it just my projection?

According to a report from the North American Electric Reliability Corporation, the recession has caused a significant reduction in projected long-term energy use across North America. Combined with decreases in demand during the recession, the effect has been to defer the projected growth in peak demand by about four years relative to projections made in 2008.

Peak demand in the United States is now projected to grow at only 1.3% per year, while net electrical energy needs are projected to grow at an annual rate of 1.6%.

In the next decade, energy efficiency efforts in the US and Canada are expected to reduce the growth in electrical demand by about 10,300 megawatts. Meanwhile, demand response is expected to grow from 30,000 megawatts in 2010 to about 40,000 megawatts in 2019.

In the US alone, energy efficiency and demand response are expected to reduce projected peak demands by 40,000 megawatts by 2019.

I’m relating all of this because it demonstrates the insanity of our current approach and our broken political system.

Have I got a job for you

Creating jobs and economic growth are now and have for too long been the hallmarks of successful governance. Given that cultural framework, nobody can blame Mayor Merrifield that he’s salivating at the prospect of adding $4 million to the local tax base.

But how many people might have been put back to work, particularly construction workers, if the same investment had been made in a state wide insulation and retrofitting project with an emphasis on overall conservation? How much more might the state’s budget have been inoculated against economic downturn if energy usage was reduced in state and municipal buildings?

The COO of the utility company is just doing his job—maximizing profits for shareholder gain and procuring power as cheaply as he can in the market. The result, in this case, will be the importation of thousands of megawatts of electricity from increasing energy giant Canada to prop up American patterns of over-consumption—even when we don’t need it. Not only will it mean that the renewable projects in this region might not get built, it will mean that New Englanders can put off tough decisions about how to survive with less, a dangerous delusion in a time of decreasing supply and rising energy costs.

We make a grave mistake to think that because hydroelectric power is better than coal this contract should be pursued. It’s an outgrowth of a mentality that fails to recognize that we must conserve instead of “biggering and biggering,” which the Lorax warned against.

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