Let’s re-examine solar energy policies

Total incentives can sometimes exceed a system’s total costs

Energy production and infrastructure continues to be a part of high-profile policy issues in New Hampshire, as witnessed by Governor Sununu’s 10-year State Energy Strategy.

This discussion includes maintaining abundant and increasingly cleaner forms of traditional energy and instituting alternative sources like solar, one of America’s fastest growing energy types.

Nationally, solar generation grew over 40 percent between 2016 and 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy says. It was also the nation’s largest source of new power generation to come online in the first quarter of 2018. Since 2011, prices for solar installations alone have gone down some 70 percent. A recent analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that prices for utility-scale PV systems fell 30 percent in early 2017 from the previous year.

In New Hampshire, like in several other states, these data points have initiated conversations among lawmakers and utility commissions about re-examining their current solar regulatory frameworks.

Federal, state and local incentives have helped increased solar generation by reducing homeowners’ out-of-pocket costs for installation and maintenance. In some states, total incentives exceed the system’s total costs.

In New Hampshire, a single, 6,100-watt direct-owned rooftop system, which is a little less than half of a typical residential heating system, receives $23,254 in taxpayer and net-metering incentives. That’s about 118 percent of the system’s total cost. A single 6,100-watt third-party owned rooftop solar system gets $24,741 in taxpayers and net-metering incentives, equal to 148 percent of the system’s cost.

New Hampshire needs a modern and flexible electricity mix to ensure it can meet growing energy demand in safe, environmentally friendly ways. It also needs incentive policies that keep pace with market conditions and leverage solar not just on the residential side but also the utility side, creating much-needed market competition.

Given the rapid transformations in the economics of solar PV systems and their incentives, the question for state leaders is: Are the current set of policies balanced for all consumers, solar and non-solar?

Brydon Ross is vice president of state affairs for Consumer Energy Alliance.

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