Across New Hampshire, resistance to development of large-scale renewable energy projects and transmission facilities grew, along with increasing complaints about the state’s siting process. In response, the New Hampshire Legislature directed the state’s Office of Energy and Planning to assess the siting process and, based on broad stakeholder input, present recommendations for improving it.
CBI and Raab Associates were hired to design and conduct the assessment.
The first step was a review of energy facility siting practices around the Northeast U.S. to draw lessons from nearby states. The project team recruited representatives from key stakeholder groups—state agencies, energy and environmental NGOs, the renewable energy industry, local government, and public utilities—to serve on the Coordinating Committee, which provided feedback on the process and findings. The team elicited input on the strengths and weaknesses of the current process and suggestions for improving it through eight stakeholder group sessions. By analyzing areas of greatest agreement across the focus groups, the team developed a series of options (including status quo) under each of the following topics:
The options were presented at five regional citizens workshops, which gave participants an opportunity to work in small groups to discuss the pros and cons of each alternative. Participants then voted on their preferences using keypad polling that produced real-time results. Analyzing the results across all regional workshops, the team identified convergence in public opinion as well as regional differences.
The final report, which consolidated results of the research, focus groups, and citizens workshops, was presented to the Legislature and used to redraft the New Hampshire Energy Facilities Siting Law. The new legislation, SB 245-FN, adopted the recommendation to reduce the number of state agencies on the Site Evaluation Committee and modify their duties; expand community engagement requirements; and strengthen the evaluation of alternative sites as part of the process. Finally, the Legislature decided to continue its assessment of the decision criteria and determine within a year whether to make further changes.