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Sununu Vetoes Net Metering Bill; Advocates Still Energized

Governor Chris Sununu has vetoed a bill to expand electric net metering in New Hampshire, but renewable energy advocates hope legislators will force the bill through.

Ted Vansant runs a solar business and leads the state's sustainable energy advocacy group. He calls the governor's move short-sighted.

"I really feel like he's missing an opportunity to move our state toward the growth of good jobs, clean air, clean water, and true long-term cost savings," Vansant says. (Read his organization's full statement below.)

Net metering lets electric customers cut costs by putting power they generate themselves back into the grid. This bill would increase limits on net metering by towns and businesses, allowing bigger solar, wind, hydro and biomass projects to qualify. (Click here to see the bill's journey through the N.H. House and Senate.)

Sununu says in a statement that he agrees more net metering could be beneficial, but that this plan costs ratepayers too much. (Scroll down to read the governor's full statement, as well as responses from Senators Jeb Bradley and Kevin Avard, and the Business and Industry Association.)

He also vetoed a bill to subsidize the biomass industry, though he may still pass a separate, similar measure.

Overriding a veto requires a two-thirds majority vote in the state House and Senate.

Governor Sununu's veto message:

Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley's statement on the veto of SB 365:

One of the 6 biomass plants has already shuttered and the owners of other plants have testified in Concord that they will close should legislative action which SB 365 represents fail. As many as 900 jobs of hard working men and women in the North Country are likely to be lost as well as the loss of $250 million of annual economic activity these biomass plants represent. Not only will veto of SB 365 have a devastating impact on families and small businesses, but the ripple effect of this job loss will impact state revenues and potentially the unemployment trust fund. Vetoing this legislation at best offers insignificant and temporary savings to electric ratepayers. With the likely loss of New Hampshire’s own biomass generation, capacity costs (costs to have generators on standby set by the New England System Operator) for New Hampshire ratepayers are expected to increase in the next capacity auction making any savings from this veto short-lived at best. Vetoing this legislation likely increases costs for many towns that dispose of solid waste at the Wheelabrator which will drive up property taxes for affected communities. I have fought for lower electric rates for 20 years leading efforts to deregulate the electric industry, for divestiture of Eversource power plants and last year for repeal of the electric consumption tax. But I have also fought for the jobs of my friends and neighbors and small businesses in our state and I will continue to do so. The small cost associated with SB 365 will have a very limited impact on electric rates and will do precious little to address high electric costs in New Hampshire. But veto of SB 365 will have a devastating impact on 900 NH jobs and the many business that also service those jobs. Both the Senate and House overwhelmingly passed SB 365 to protect NH jobs – I hope legislators will again carefully consider this issue.

Nashua's city waterways manager Madeleine Mineau on how veto affects the city's plans:

The veto of SB 446 does not affect how we operate or sell power at our hydropower projects in the short term, however we were looking to SB446 to allow us to use power generated at Mine Falls hydro for City use in the future. This veto by the governor also puts a serious damper on the City’s interest in developing additional renewable energy resources to move towards powering the City on local renewable energy.

Statement from Republican state senator Kevin Avard:

“I am disappointed that an important bill to expand net metering, SB 446, was vetoed today.” “Communities across our state, like the City of Nashua, should be given the opportunity to build mid-size clean energy infrastructure and sell back unused energy to the grid. This would benefit businesses and municipalities by cutting energy costs while also creating greater energy diversity.”
“As we look towards increasing energy generation, establishing diverse, clean energy supply continues to be an important strategy to lower costs for ratepayers. I will continue to work next session towards improving our energy mix and ensuring our citizens and businesses have the opportunity to reduce energy costs.”

The Business and Industry Association's response to the vetoes:

"Governor Sununu's vetoes of SB 365 and SB 446 serve as an appropriate admonishment to lawmakers who have not taken New Hampshire's and the region's energy predicament seriously,” said BIA President Jim Roche. “As a former small businessman and employer, the governor understands that continued high electric energy prices – 50-60% higher than the national average year-round – is simply unsustainable. Further burdening all ratepayers, including manufacturers who drive the state's economy, by excessively subsidizing select energy generators is poor public policy. The Governor's vetoes are a needed course correction."

The NHSEA response to the vetoes:

Governor Chris Sununu made a conscious choice today to deny NH businesses and municipalities the ability to choose their own energy future when he vetoed SB 446. This bill, which the Legislature passed with bipartisan support, would have raised the ability to net meter qualifying renewable energy projects from 1 MW to 5 MWs. “After receiving overwhelming support and passage from both sides of the aisle and beyond, NHSEA, our hundreds of members, and their customers are profoundly disappointed that the Governor has chosen this short-sighted action,” said Ted Vansant, Board Chairman for the New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association. “This veto has a serious negative impact on our indigenous energy resources including solar, small hydropower, and wood-fired cogeneration; local sources of energy that keep dollars, jobs, and economic activity in-state and have proven to lower grid-wide energy costs for all ratepayers.” SB 446 was the best option New Hampshire has seen in a long time to empower businesses and municipalities to control their electric costs, as other aspects of electric bills are beyond our control in the regional market. These crucial benefits were clearly understood and strongly supported by NH’s legislature and by an overwhelming number of businesses and municipalities from across the state who want more freedom and competitive options to self-generate their own power. “We are confident the legislature will demonstrate its commitment to a clean energy future and lower energy bills by overturning this veto and showing they side with what New Hampshire wants: a robust economy, freedom of energy choice, resiliency, and a state that is truly open for business,” said Vansant.

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.
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