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New Hampshire's Solar Incentive Getting a Bit Less Generous

If you want to install solar panels at your home, it’s about to get a little more expensive. A reduction in the state’s renewable energy rebate goes into effect Thursday. The previous rebate was $.75 per watt, maxing out at $3,750, whereas the new one will be $.50 a watt, with a maximum of $2,500.

This is because in 2015 the number of residential installations more than doubled, but the fund that pays for the state’s solar rebate came in short this year: dropping from $17 million dollars to $4 million. The change is intended to ensure that the fund doesn’t run out of money for rebates before the end of the year.

Credit NH PUC Renewable Energy Fund Annual Report
NH PUC Renewable Energy Fund Annual Report
The state's renewable energy fund gets it's revenue from alternative compliance payments (ACPs) that utilities make in lieu of purchasing renewable energy credits (RECs) under the state renewable portfolio standard (RPS). They have tended to fluctuate widely as market conditions and state rules for RECs have changed.

Solar installers were generally not excited about the change, with some arguing that it would result homeowners choosing to install fewer and smaller solar array, but others called it “painful but necessary” in comments to the Public Utilities Commission. They also point out the reduction is offset by the falling cost of solar panels.

“If you look at percentages, instead of straight dollar figures, someone moving forward with a system on Monday at the lower rebate value is going have a very similar return as someone who moved forward six months ago,” explains James Hasselbeck of Revision Energy.

This is not the first time the rebates have been reduced. When the program was first introduced in 2009 the maximum rebate was $6,000 dollars. It fell in 2010 $4,500 and again in 2012 to $3,750.

Credit NH PUC Renewable Energy Fund Annual Report
NH PUC Renewable Energy Fund Annual Report
Both residential and commercial and industrial renewable energy projects accelerated dramatically in recent year, driven by falling costs for solar panels.

  The change comes as an even greater hurdle for the solar industry appears to be approaching: the number of installations is bumping up against a cap on the amount of “net-metered” renewable energy facilities the state can have. This cap exists for all utilities except the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, whose board voted to eliminate it earlier this year.

Net-metering allows residential solar customers to sell their excess power to the grid at an advantageous price, so long as they produce less than they consume. 

Sam Evans-Brown has been working for New Hampshire Public Radio since 2010, when he began as a freelancer. He shifted gears in 2016 and began producing Outside/In, a podcast and radio show about “the natural world and how we use it.” His work has won him several awards, including two regional Edward R. Murrow awards, one national Murrow, and the Overseas Press Club of America's award for best environmental reporting in any medium. He studied Politics and Spanish at Bates College, and before reporting was variously employed as a Spanish teacher, farmer, bicycle mechanic, ski coach, research assistant, a wilderness trip leader and a technical supporter.
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