In Win For N.H. Green Energy Advocates, Local Net Metering Expansion Moves Forward
Two pieces of legislation to let municipalities make more of their own renewable energy and to study the costs of that expansion will move ahead after lawmakers worked out an agreement on Tuesday.
This new arrangement represents a long-awaited step forward for what's known as net metering, a process which allows homeowners, towns and businesses to produce their own energy and sell what's not used back to the grid.
Sen. David Watters, a Democrat from Dover who supported the bill, said these proposals have economic development potential. Towns and cities like Nashua have wanted to invest in more home-grown energy for years, hoping to lower their energy costs, create jobs and add to their tax rolls.
“Municipalities are chomping at the bit to get this,” he said.
Lawmakers agreed to increase the municipal net metering cap from 1 to 5 megawatts, through an amendment to a House bill about municipal aggregation programs. In the past, lawmakers who support net metering have sought to include businesses in this increase, too.
“There were still, I think, a lot of political passions about ‘Why can’t we just do the entire lifting of the cap?’” said Sen. Watters said. “But this became a priority for both sides, that if we can get this done, let’s get this done.”
“It will allow municipalities to pursue or attempt to meet their clean energy or emissions reductions goals. It really opens a lot of doors for clean energy in the state,” Kelly Buchanan of Clean Energy New Hampshire said.
Previous attempts to raise the net metering cap have been vetoed three times by Gov. Chris Sununu. He argued that too much net metering could shift costs to other ratepayers. The Public Utilities Commission has said it can’t determine if that’s true.
Now, a new consensus amendment to a Senate omnibus energy bill, S.B. 91, would officially ask those state regulators to balance the interests of customer-generators and electric ratepayers, and to maximize the benefits and minimize the costs of net metering.
Republican Rep. Michael Vose, who chairs the House Energy committee and represents Epping, said he wanted S.B. 91 to name cost-shifting as a concern before he agreed to increase the municipal net metering cap.
“We felt it was important that they help us figure out how to prevent any significant cost shifting that might occur because of the addition of this relatively new increase in net-metering of over 1 megawatt,” he said.
Vose said that the two amendments combined will ensure that municipal net metering "is allowed, and will work successfully.”
Buchanan said the agreement is a relief.
“It’s something we’ve been working on for quite a few years, so it’s elating to say the least,” Buchanan said.
The two bills now head to the governor’s desk.