Hey solar industry, why the subsidy?

We should not be trying to artificially grow an industry by holding ratepayers hostage

When we hear that legislation subsidizing a business is so wonderful, our first question should be, “Well, if it’s so great, why does it need a subsidy?” 

So, for example, when we read articles touting net metering when we know those projects will benefit a small group of providers that can force utilities to buy this power at retail rates for markup and resale, raising the cost to the rest of us electric ratepayers, the obvious question is, why do you need that subsidy if net metering is so wonderful.

Recently, Franklin Mayor Tony Giunta wrote about the benefits of energy net metering as reflected in a bill currently before Governor Sununu. In fact, the mayor stated that net metering does not raise electric rates. 

We tremendously respect Mayor Giunta and his years of public service to Franklin and this state. In this assertion, however, he is dead wrong. In fact, forcing higher, above-market rates on New Hampshire ratepayers is what this legislation is all about.

If energy net metering does not raise rates, why would the solar developers demand legislation before moving forward with their large solar projects? Why have Franklin officials been quoted time and again saying this rate-raising legislation is needed for their net metering project to work?

Any developer or municipality is free to install solar arrays at any time. It’s their property and there is no law prohibiting solar installations. Indeed, existing law already gives a subsidy, but apparently even that is not enough. It is this additional subsidy that the developers need to make their large profits. Continuing to grow this subsidy, however, will mean that the rest of us ratepayers will be paying more, and employers who cannot will be leaving New Hampshire.

Already, utilities are required to purchase the excess output of these solar arrays at what are known as default service rates. The default service rate is more than double the wholesale rate. So, what this means is that ratepayers who don’t have the luxury of installing large solar arrays on big houses or across large fields would subsidize those who do and therefore would get to sell their electricity at twice the rate of other generators. 

We should not be trying to artificially grow the solar industry by holding ratepayers hostage to developers providing solar arrays for large homes and fields, even when a field is owned by a municipality. 

The governor recently released his updated energy strategy policy. A major goal of this policy is seeking ways to expand renewable energy without burdening the pocketbooks of our residential ratepayers and our manufacturers. The net metering legislation before the governor violates this goal. 

Net metering supporters cannot begin to answer the question, “If it’s so great, why the subsidy?” Instead, they deny the obvious by denying the subsidy. That is manifestly untrue and does a disservice to the debate.

This won’t fool New Hampshire ratepayers already paying the third-highest electric rates in the continental United States. And It shouldn’t fool the governor when the time comes to veto this legislation.

Former NH House Speaker William O’Brien is co-chair of the NH Center Right Coalition. Greg Moore is state director of Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire. 

Categories: Opinion