Corkery: Net metering is New Hampshire-produced energy

Public support and bipartisan majorities have made it clear that it is a Granite State priority

New Hampshire families should be the number one priority in the State House – not big energy and utility companies. And fortunately, when it comes to net metering – a policy that enables us to install clean energy, like solar panels, to provide for the immediate energy demand and sell anything extra onto the grid – almost everyone on both sides of the aisle seems to agree, except Governor Sununu.

Net metering puts Granite Staters in charge of our own energy use, allowing communities to install renewable energy and generate our own power. For instance, if a school district installs a solar array that meets their average energy demand plus a little more, the initial energy bills for that school district pays for the array. Then, once paid, the school district uses what it generates and sells the extra, saving significantly for taxpayers.

Now imagine the same for your house or your business. How about lowering or eliminating your town’s energy bills for the library, town hall, fire station, water treatment facility or other buildings?

It’s a no-brainer, but right now there is a size limit to net-metered energy – 1 megawatt. That’s why the Republican-held House and Senate passed net metering legislation in 2018 to raise the cap to 5 megawatts. Unfortunately, Governor Sununu vetoed it. This year, the Democratic-held House and Senate passed another very similar net metering bill, House Bill 365. Again, this legislation was supported by overwhelming, bipartisan majorities in both chambers. And, again, Sununu vetoed it.

Here’s why Chris Sununu is wrong:

First, our legislators are working across the aisle on net metering because it would bolster New Hampshire’s local economy. Currently, we spend $6 billion to buy fossil fuel-based energy out of state. HB 365 would boost net-metered projects from 1 MW to 5 MW allowing communities, school districts and businesses to generate their own power while investing in their own community. Raising the cap can help lower energy costs, inject much needed local economic activity and safeguard taxpayers from volatile electric prices and ever rising transmission costs.

Additionally, producing more energy locally can avoid expensive infrastructure projects like Northern Pass and new gas pipelines with more dependence on out-of-state sources. Rather, local energy could save and generate much-needed revenue for communities that sell their power to the grid, potentially providing property tax relief to Granite State families.

Second, expanding net metering is an important step to transition away from fossil fuels with many beneficiaries. The science is clear on the climate crisis, and it threatens the future of our state. This bipartisan net metering legislation would put New Hampshire families first by creating more space for pollution free energy that will improve air quality and public health in New Hampshire.

Finally, this is an overwhelmingly popular bipartisan policy – with everyone except for Chris Sununu, his family and his campaign contributors. Energy companies and utility providers want to maintain the status quo and shut down any attempts to transition to a renewable energy economy. By locking out solar, consumers are forced to buy into more fracked gas pipelines and transmission towers that will send ever more money out of state while further contributing to climate crisis and rising energy costs.

Unsurprisingly, fossil fuel lobbyists are tight with Governor Sununu. The New England Ratepayers Association is run by Marc Brown, a close family confidant of the governor. Including Michael Sununu, the governor’s brother, who works for NERA. But that’s not all. Fossil fuel industry and utilities like Eversource have given more than $100,000.00 to Sununu’s campaigns and his inaugural fund. It’s clear that the governor’s campaign contributors are driving Chris Sununu’s opposition to this commonsense policy.

But just because these corporate special interests control Governor Sununu, it doesn’t mean we have to let them control our state. The good news is this fight is not over. Sununu’s veto can be defeated. Public support and bipartisan majorities in both chambers have made it clear that net metering is a priority. But legislators need to hear from you. Call your representatives today to let them know that HB 365, net metering and the benefits of clean energy are important to you, even if they’re not important to Chris Sununu.

Catherine M. Corkery is chapter director of the New Hampshire Sierra Club.

Categories: Energy and Environment, Government, Opinion