This is a very important step that proves again that states and local communities can lead the way towards a 100% renewable solution to power. Here NH lifts net metering limits. These state caps on how much clean energy a utility must take on should be increasingly increased or cut.
Opening up the doors to more solar and wind, with battery storage to smooth out inconsistencies in production, will push us more quickly off of our dangerous, inefficient dependence on fossil fuel.
CONCORD — Utility regulators have issued a long-awaited order with
significant implications for the growing solar industry in New Hampshire
and financial rewards for property owners who install solar panels.
order lifts all existing limits on so-called net metering, the process
by which people who own solar panels sell their surplus electricity back
into the grid as an offset to their electric bills.
In a 74-page
ruling handed down late Friday afternoon, the Public Utilities
Commission settled an issue that has been in dispute for several years,
as utility interests and solar industry advocates squared off over the
proper way to compensate people who own solar panels without imposing
unfair costs on those who don’t.
“The order reflects a fair
compromise and will certainly protect all ratepayers while allowing
consumers to continue to choose to install solar and get reasonably
compensated for the value of their energy,” said Kate Epsen, executive
director of the N.H. Clean Tech Council and Solar Energy Association.
also protects the 1,000-plus jobs in the industry and opens up new
opportunities for municipalities, utilities and businesses,” she said.
of the states with net metering laws have no limit on how many
megawatts can be accommodated, and that’s where solar advocates wanted
to see New Hampshire go. They won that battle, at least for now. The PUC
order lifts the current 100-megawatt limit on solar power eligible for
net metering, which was put into place last year.
managed for years with a 50-megawatt limit, until the solar
installations took off in 2015, and the limit was quickly exhausted. In
2016, lawmakers raised the limit to 75 megawatts to give regulators time
to figure out a long-term solution, and that was soon raised to 100
How much to pay
The key issue
is how much to pay solar panel owners for the electricity they sell back
into the grid. They are currently paid the full, retail rate, meaning
all parts of the electric bill, not just power supply.
customers in the Eversource net metering program, for example, have
been getting 16.5 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity “exported.”
have argued that net metered customers should only be paid the
wholesale energy supply price, which is a fraction of the full retail
rate and varies hourly according to market conditions. The PUC ruling
comes down somewhere between those two extremes, but very much on the
side of consumers, according to the state-appointed consumer advocate
for utility issues, attorney Donald Kreis.
“We have our
long-awaited net metering order, and it is a qualified victory for
consumers,” he wrote in a Saturday Facebook post. “We were able to
persuade the utilities to walk away from draconian rate design schemes
that were calculated to punish rather than reward people for generating
some of their own electricity and sharing some of it with their
Kreis said the order sets the stage for a shift in
the energy delivery system that relies more on small generators like
homeowners with solar panels, in what is called “distributed generation”
instead of the old utility model of consolidation and large-scale
“We’ve charted a path forward for the further
implementation of new technologies and new rate designs that will make
consumers more powerful and autonomous users of the grid,” wrote Kreis.
“And we did these things as distributed generation is just taking root
in the Granite State, as opposed to waiting until much later in the
development process as other states have done.”
The PUC found,
despite utility claims to the contrary, “that there is little to no
evidence of any significant cost-shifting” from net metering.
Eversource spokesperson Martin Murray said the utility is still evaluating the order.
initial look tells us that the PUC adopted the common elements of two
settlements that were developed and is committed to resolving remaining
differences,” he said. “There seems to be broad agreement that everyone
who uses the energy grid should share fairly in the cost of the grid.
Eversource is looking forward to participating in the working groups and
studies that the order indicates will soon get underway.”
What the order says
Here are some highlights:
net meter limit of 100 megawatts is lifted and new net metering rates
begin on Sept. 1 and continue until a new order is issued, sometime in
the future when a series of studies is completed.
• All existing net metered systems are grandfathered through 2040 at current rates.
systems will still be credited monthly at 100 percent of retail energy
and transmission charges but only 25 percent of distribution charge; and
will receive cash credits on their electric bills instead of kwh
• Eversource must perform a study over the next 12
months on the value of distributed generation, focused on solar and
small hydro, using a 10- to 15-year framework for the analysi