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Environmental Disclosure FAQs

What is Environmental Disclosure?

Pursuant to RSA 378:49, the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission requires all suppliers of electricity in the state to provide their customers with periodic environmental disclosure statements.  These statements, also called environmental disclosure “labels,” provide information on what fuels the suppliers use to generate electricity, the air emissions resulting from that generation of electricity, and a comparison of those emissions to a regional average.

How do electricity suppliers report renewable energy?

Utilities throughout New England are required to increase the percentage of renewable energy in their generation supply mix each year pursuant to the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard law, RSA 362-F.  In order to do that, utilities and power suppliers acquire Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) produced by eligible renewable power generators.  Payments made for RECs help renewable generators compete with non-renewable fuels. 

Why is Environmental Disclosure Important?

Today, customers can choose to buy their electricity from a competitive supplier.  While most competitive suppliers only offer their services to larger business customers, all customers can choose to have a greater percentage of the electricity they use produced by renewable energy sources.  By participating in voluntary programs offered by electric utilities and competitive electric power suppliers which provide electricity produced by a greater percentage of renewable energy sources than is required under the RPS law, customers can make a choice.   Environmental disclosure allows consumers to consider the environmental impact of generating electricity when selecting electricity suppliers, or when choosing the type of electric service from their supplier, or when considering energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energy projects.  The environmental disclosure label is designed to help you understand how producing electricity affects the environment and public health. 

The Environmental Label Provides Information on Three Air Emissions

The disclosure label provides information on three pollutants: sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and carbon dioxide (CO2). 

Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) is a heavy, colorless gas that once in the air may undergo a chemical transformation into sulfates and sulfuric acid, contributing to acid rain.  Electric generation facilities that burn fossil fuels are the largest source of SO2 emissions.  SO2 emissions are controlled and monitored by federal and state environmental regulatory programs.

Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) are compounds of nitrogen and oxygen that once in the air may undergo a chemical transformation into nitrates and nitric acid, contributing to acid rain and ground-level ozone (photo-chemical smog).  Electric generation facilities that burn fossil or biomass fuels are a major source of NOx emissions.  NOx emissions are controlled and monitored by federal and state environmental regulatory programs.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) is a colorless, odorless gas that allows light from the sun’s rays to be transmitted to the Earth’s surface but blocks heat radiating from the Earth’s surface from escaping into the atmosphere, thus contributing to global climate change or warming due to the “greenhouse” effect.  Electric generation facilities that burn fossil fuels are a major source of CO2 emissions.  CO2 emissions are monitored by federal and state environmental programs.

For further information on the formation of ozone, its sources and its health effects, see:
http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/air/do/asab/ozone/categories/overview.htm

For further information on global climate change, see:
http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/air/tsb/tps/climate/index.htm

For further information on the formation and affects of acid rain, see:
http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/air/tsb/tps/acidrain/categories/overview.htm

Other Emissions of Concern

Depending on fuel source, size, and location, the generation of electricity may also result in other public health, environmental and socioeconomic impacts not disclosed above.  Of particular concern is the potential release of particulate matter and mercury when certain fuels are burned.  These pollutants have health impacts particularly to sensitive populations such as those with respiratory diseases, children and the elderly.  For further information on these pollutants, see:

Particulates
http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/air/do/asab/pm/index.htm

Mercury
http://des.nh.gov/organization/commissioner/pip/factsheets/ard/documents/ard-28.pdf

How does the Environmental Label Relate to the New Hampshire’s Renewable Portfolio Standard?

The New Hampshire Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) law, RSA 362-F, requires electric utilities and competitive electric suppliers to obtain renewable energy for a certain percentage of the power in megawatt hours (MWh) that they supply to customers.  Utilities and power suppliers acquire Renewable Energy Certifications (RECs) produced by eligible renewable power generators to meet this requirement.  RECs are issued by the administrator of the ISO New England Generation Information System (GIS) which is used to track the renewable attributes of electrical generation in New England.  Some of the renewable energy listed on a disclosure label may be serving to meet a supplier’s legal obligation under New Hampshire’s Renewable Portfolio Standard. 

For further information on New Hampshire’s RPS, see:

http://des.nh.gov/organization/divisions/air/tsb/tps/climate/rps.htm and  http://www.puc.nh.gov/Sustainable%20Energy/Renewable_Portfolio_Standard_Program.htm
What are Renewable Energy Certificates?
Utilities and power suppliers acquire Renewable Energy Certificates produced by eligible/certified renewable power generators to meet New Hampshire’s RPS.  Each REC represents one MWh (1,000 kWh) of power generation from renewable sources of energy and all of the attributes that go along with that unit of energy.  The purchase of RECs increases the renewable characteristics of the utility’s supply mix, and the sale of RECs decreases the renewable characteristics of the supply mix.

Take Action!
You can choose to purchase renewable energy in addition to RPS requirements through your utility or competitive supplier.  Contact your utility for more information. 

Find out about renewable energy programs and incentives available in New Hampshire at http://www.nh.gov/oep/programs/energy/RenewableEnergyIncentives.htm.  

Learn about energy efficiency programs available in New Hampshire at www.nhsaves.com, http://www.puc.nh.gov/Electric/coreenergyefficiencyprograms.htm, http://www.puc.nh.gov/Gas-Steam/energyefficiencyprograms.htm, and http://www.nh.gov/oep/programs/energy/resources.htm