By Kate Epsen, NH Sustainable Energy Association
New Hampshire is at a crossroads and our growing renewable energy economy hangs in the balance. A critical tool to enable renewable energy and solar energy in particular, known as net metering, is at risk of hitting its statewide cap and thereby halting our ability to generate onsite renewable energy for our homes, businesses and towns.
Net energy metering is a critical tool to enable people, towns, and businesses across our state to generate their own electricity and get fairly compensated for the extra electricity they export into the grid. This is why nearly every state in the US offers net metering and the US Energy Policy Act of 2005 required utilities to offer net metering to customers on request.
But in New Hampshire, only 50 megawatts — all of one to two percent — of total generation are allowed to net meter, as set by state statute. That limit was set well before many other states demonstrated that high levels of solar and other distributed renewable energy can be accommodated on the grid.
New Hampshire’s 50 megawatts are shared among the electric distribution utilities, with Eversource receiving the greatest share, but still only 36 MW for its entire service territory that covers most of the state. Unitil only allows about 6 MW and Liberty about 4 MW (the NH Electric Coop has its own net metering regime and no longer has a cap).
The net metering cap has been reached in towns throughout New Hampshire – residents, businesses, and municipalities who want to net meter are being turned away. Liberty Utilities hit their share of the 50 MW cap in July, and no longer is allowing customers to net meter. Eversource, our state’s largest utility, could hit their cap any day.
NH needs to raise its cap immediately in order to prevent massive job loss and renewable energy market disruption, and loss of control over energy costs. There are many reasons why New Hampshire should continue to offer a robust and fair net metering program:
- Net metering is pro-consumer, especially at this time of high electricity rates, because it allows us to control and stabilize our own electricity costs through homegrown energy resources.
- Net metering is a critical tool that supports the ongoing growth of NH’s clean energy and clean tech sector, an industry which already provides 15-20 thousand well-paying jobs here in our local economy, and which is seeing dramatic growth.
- Net metering helps deploy new, clean supply, often at times of peak demand (when power is most costly), that does not require the use of transmission lines, which lowers costs in the system that we all pay for on our bills
Thankfully, there is a solution to this problem but it will require quick action from the New Hampshire legislature and Governor Hassan in order to avoid taking a step backwards in the development of clean energy in the Granite State. While the Governor can call a special session with the agreement of Executive Council and Legislative leadership, only the Legislature – through legislation – can increase the limit on net metering. What is needed now is for the Legislature to come together as soon as possible to pass the legislation and avoid an enormous disruption to clean energy development. New Hampshire simply cannot afford to continue to lose jobs, diverse and renewable energy supply, and significant economic and environmental benefits.