Let’s be real about subsidies

On behalf of their customers, solar developers request fair compensation for energy produced locally that supports NH’s economy

In response to the June 18 opinion piece “Hey solar industry, why the subsidy?”and applauding the June 26 piece, “Hey fossil-fuel industry, where’s your proof?”let’s be real about subsidies. All forms of energy used in the U.S. are subsidized in one form or another, from direct funding for research and development to tax breaks.

Oil, coal, nuclear, solar, wind, hydro, and others all receive subsidies, totaling in the billions of dollars annually. This data is accessible, incontrovertible and contributes to the heavily regulated price we all pay for energy. The June 26 piece accurately corrects the previous assertion that solar depends on subsidies.

Shifting focus to New Hampshire, the June 18 piece describes net metering as “a subsidy … forcing higher, above-market rates on New Hampshire ratepayers.” By no factual definition can net metering be claimed as a subsidy, as this article would have you believe.

In the simplest terms, net metering provides fair and equitable compensation for energy produced by a clean energy system, such as solar and small hydro, and exported onto the electric grid. In fact, by many studies and reports across the country and the world, net metering underpays renewable energy projects. 

Yet net metering is blamed for the mythical “cost-shifting” to other ratepayers. Let’s be real: The NH Public Utilities Commission, experts in New Hampshire-specific energy issues, investigated cost-shifting under the recent eight-month-long net metering docket, and after hearing extensive expert testimony on the subsidy question from all sides, found “little to no evidence of any significant cost-shifting” and adopted tariffs to preserve that finding.

Projects under the recently vetoed Senate Bill 446 required the use of those tariffs, thus ensuring no cost-shifting. 

Projects under SB 446 have the potential to save businesses and municipalities, and ultimately taxpayers and ratepayers, millions of dollars. 

Let’s be real: New Hampshire renewable energy developers do not claim they need “assistance” with their projects, as the term “subsidy” would have you believe. The professionals employed in the renewable energy industry are expert engineers, consultants, electricians and construction professionals, financiers and planners. They know their industry inside and out, and they know how to build projects that save everyone money on their electric rates due to the significant value clean energy provides to the electric grid.

Solar developers do not demand subsidies; on behalf of their customers, they request fair compensation for energy produced locally that supports New Hampshire’s economy. Considering the recently approved 19 percent rate hike for Eversource customers for energy supply, producing more of our energy in-state is a wise move for all ratepayers. 

Let’s be real: New Hampshire’s electric rates are high compared to states across the country that utilize ample in-state resources, but they are in line with the rest of the New England region. The June 18 piece fails to disclose that a major reason our rates are high are skyrocketing transmission costs. These are regional costs that are outside of New Hampshire’s control unless we use less energy from the regional grid. We can accomplish this through the generation of our own energy and through greater efficiency in how we use energy, and SB 446 is our best chance at making it a reality.

Ted Vansant is chair of the NH Sustainable Energy Association.

Categories: Opinion