On Thursday, April 7, 2016, the NH Legislature passed HB1116. This bill raises the state’s net metering cap from 50MW to 100MW, especially vital because the original 50MW limit was nearly used up. The bill also directs the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to determine a fair compensation rate for both net metering customers and other customers. Once initiated, the PUC will have ten months to complete the process and announce a new rate. The hope is that the increased MW will allow enough time for a new rate to be determined, but it remains unclear if this new cap will be reached before the allocated 10 months are up. This bill is the culmination of months of discussions and efforts from legislators, industry, and other interested parties including NHSEA, who took an active support stance to raise the cap from the get-go. Governor Maggie Hassan is expected to sign the bill into law soon.
In other legislative news, the NH Senate passed SB 492, which would allow greater funds (deriving from NH’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, RGGI) to go into utility-run energy efficiency programming, specifically programs for low income residents, municipalities, and residential weatherization. The House Energy committee passed this bill on a split vote of 12-5. The bill will now go to the full House of Representatives for a vote, where successful passage is uncertain. NH continues to lag in the region in its investment into cost-effective energy efficiency: SB 492 would help us to use greater amounts of RGGI funding to help residents and towns save energy and thereby save money on their bills. More on efficiency soon.
While there have been several bills proposed to prevent or increase prudency around the construction and/or financing of natural gas pipelines or high-powered transmission lines, many of those bills have been voted as “inexpedient to legislate” by NH Representatives and Senators. There are active bills however, including HB 1148, which requires the NH Public Utilities Commission to make a public interest finding when ruling on proposed natural gas capacity contracts. HB 1660 allows an owner of land to require a pipeline company to take an entire tract of land under eminent domain, allows for pipeline company eminent domain takings to include public lands with consent of the legislative body, and provides for assessment of the land use change tax for certain eminent domain takings of land for energy infrastructure. HB 1148 and 1660 will have public hearings in the NH Senate on April 13th, 2016.
NH rarely crafts energy policy in a comprehensive manner; we prefer an eclectic approach. Accordingly, there were various bills that were [thankfully] defeated that would have rolled back or weakened our Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and our dedicated Renewable Energy Fund (REF). There is a bill that calls for a Sterling Energy demonstration project at a state building and a bill to add biodiesel fuel producers as eligible recipients of Renewable Energy Credits under our RPS. These latter two are moving forward, as is an important bill that would reverse a prior budget raid on the dedicated REF and thereby restore $2.2 million dollars to that fund this biennium.
Getting back to energy efficiency, this time looking to the regulatory arena, NH continues to navigate the waters of establishing a statewide Energy Efficiency Resource Standard (EERS) at the Public Utilities Commission. What does this mean for the Granite State? A successful outcome would likely include achievable, comprehensive electric energy savings targets. These targets would better enable all of us to invest our ratepayer dollars into targeted efficiency. It is widely shown that “buying” a kilowatt-hour of efficiency is much cheaper than buying a kilowatt-hour of generation, and a statewide EERS in is a proven policy to better capture the benefits of cost-effective efficiency for all consumers.
It’s been another busy year in Concord, and the activity won’t be over anytime soon.