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Two new-energy bills amid the avalanche of proposals being considered by the state legislature have caught my attention: one to boost various 21st century ideas like vehicle-to-grid and “transactive energy,” and another to boost “green hydrogen.”

The hydrogen bill (SB167) seems the likeliest to succeed. It passed out of Senate committee unanimously and is set to come to the Senate floor for discussion and vote just after this newsletter is sent, so I don’t know the result. If it passes it will go to the House.

The bill focuses on hydrogen produced by clean sources (“hydrogen fuel that is electrolyzed using a 100 percent zero carbon emission energy source”) as a storage medium of renewable electricity, “especially for offshore wind energy.” It would give breaks from the state business profits tax and local property taxes to developers who met the various criteria and establish an advisory committee within the Department of Energy to prod development.

I am suspicious of hydrogen as a distraction from renewable energy that won’t end up accomplishing much in the way of climate goals, but prime sponsor Sen. David Watters says people are aware of those pitfalls. The likelihood that a ton of offshore wind electricity will be available in a few years ups the ante for creating ways to store or even distribute that power, since building transmission lines is so hard, and hydrogen is a distinct possibility.

He also waxes poetic about possibilities such as building a lot of solar around our last coal-fired power plant, in Bow, and using it to split hydrogen from water, which is then burnt in turbines on the site. This would keep up use of an existing power plant that pays a lot of property tax and has local jobs while cutting out coal.

The other bill (SB166) takes on the gnarly problem of modernizing the economic and regulatory systems built up over the past century for producing and distributing electricity.

The summary is both sweeping and vague: “allows the department of energy and the public utilities commission to implement the use of distributed energy resources, transactive energy, enhanced demand response, and distributed generation and storage for grid modernization for New Hampshire.”

It includes multiple additions and edits to laws and regulations designed to make it easier to incorporate such things as virtual power plants – lots of batteries, including those in EVs, linked by software to store or discharge power on command – in New England’s grid.

Its success will depend less on technology than on determining how much these non-traditional sources are worth in dollar terms and who pays for them or profits from them. Considering the constant political and regulatory fight that takes place over net metering, a relatively straightforward method of paying people when their rooftop solar sends electricity into the grid, this won’t be easy.

“All the states in the nation are trying to come to grips with it,” said Watters, who also is a prime sponsor of this bill. “New Hampshire has to figure out a way how it’s going to modernize its grid. … The complexity is how do we handle the costs and benefits of distributed resources, how do they access the grid, what do they pay for that access.”

The future of this bill is much less certain.

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