For the second year in a row, Gov. Chris Sununu has vetoed a plan to expand net energy metering in New Hampshire.
The bill would raise, from 1 megawatt to 5, the limit on how much solar and hydropower towns and businesses can generate and sell back to the regional electric grid.
A couple dozen in-progress municipal and industrial energy projects could benefit. But Sununu sees the bill as a hand-out to big developers at residents' expense.
“We should not allow our good intentions to mask a bad policy,” he says in his veto message. “We should not force our ratepayers to massively subsidize those who can afford to construct 40-acre solar farms.”
Utilities say net metering is only a minor driver of rate increases. And in this case, large-scale customers would be the ones to pay the higher rate.
Still, Sununu’s statement says the state should "target the benefits of renewable energy to those most in need."
On that front, Sununu helped amend and plans to sign a Democrat-authored bill to spur more solar development that would lower energy costs for low-income residents.
The New England Ratepayers Association, a conservative advocacy group that does not disclose its membership, applauded the governor’s decision to veto the net metering bill.
In a statement, NERA president Marc Brown calls the proposal “a solution looking for a problem” and says it “would have expanded the practice of distorting energy markets by paying politically preferred generators above-market rate.”
This is the second veto the net metering proposal has faced. Both years, the bill had bipartisan support in the legislature and from some business and municipal groups.
Last year, the Senate overturned Sununu’s veto of the proposal, but the House fell about 14 votes short after a fiery campaign tied to a fight over biomass subsidies.
Supporters say they’ll try again to override this year’s veto, which the advocacy group Clean Energy New Hampshire calls “remarkably short-sighted and misinformed.”
“Governor Sununu made a conscious choice to deny larger energy users the chance to self-generate their own power,” the group says in a statement. “He also spurned millions of dollars of private investment primed to enter the state.”
Portsmouth Democratic Sen. Martha Fuller Clark says in a statement that the bill would create jobs and “allow communities to take charge of their own energy futures.”
“I urge the Legislature to continue supporting this critical bill that lowers energy costs for everyone by growing distributed energy and insulating all New Hampshire ratepayers from electric price volatility and higher transmission costs,” she says.
To overturn the veto, both chambers of the legislature must vote to do so with a two-thirds margin.
The House originally passed the bill this year with 20 votes to spare over that threshold. But the Senate approved the bill on a unanimous voice vote, where some opponents may have abstained – so it’s not clear yet if they’ll override the governor.
This story was updated Tuesday to include a statement from the New England Ratepayers Association.