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N.H.'s net metering expansion paves the way for new Concord hydropower project

power lines
Dan Tuohy
Manchester, Nashua and Exeter are also among the communities taking advantage of this expansion.

More than two dozen communities have been able to expand their net metering offerings after a new state law went into effect last August, according to the Department of Energy.

Net metering is a way of giving renewable energy producers credit for the power they generate. The new law expanded net metering, making it possible for New Hampshire municipalities to generate up to 5 megawatts of their own power. Previously, they could only generate up to 1 megawatt.

Manchester, Nashua and Exeter are among the communities taking advantage of this expansion, according to the Department of Energy. Counties are eligible, as well, and Coos is among those moving forward.

This policy change has also allowed Concord to advance a major energy project. Last week, the city finalized a net metering agreement that commits a majority of the city’s energy usage to a 4.6-megawatt hydropower project — which would not have been eligible for net metering under the state’s previous cap.

Brian LeBrun, deputy city manager of finance, said the agreement benefits Concord in a variety of ways. The city expects to get about $100,000 in financial credits annually for 18 years, saving money on energy bills.

But the agreement also fits in with Concord’s goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050, LeBrun said, and furthers their work to support local renewable energy development.

“The city is just very excited that we're able to participate along with [Concord’s] Energy and Environment Committee to help make these things more of a reality as time goes on,” LeBrun said.

Concord’s hydropower project will be run by Essex Hydro, a renewable energy company. Madeleine Mineau, the company’s chief operating officer, said the higher net metering cap has been beneficial, but limiting the expansion to municipalities has made things difficult.

The hydropower project requires multiple partners to fully utilize net metering. All of the power generated by that project needs to be matched by the amount of energy its partners, like Concord, are using. And sometimes, Mineau said, it’s difficult to match the power generation of larger projects.

“It would be easier if I could go to a big industrial customer… I could probably have a single member in the whole group,” she said.

Efforts to expand net metering were largely unsuccessful in the 2022 legislative session. A bill to include individuals and business customers in expanded net metering was halted in the House.

Kelly Buchanan, director of regulatory and legislative affairs at Clean Energy New Hampshire, will be watching closely for the results of a study on the value of distributed energy resources, like smaller-scale renewables that participate in net metering. That study is expected to be released this month, she said, and could set the tone for future net metering policy in New Hampshire.

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.

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