Net metering veto spreads misinformation

Governor’s message misrepresents sound energy policy

The state is buzzing with the recent gubernatorial veto of House Bill 365 to raise the net metering project cap from 1 MW to 5 MW. But it’s not buzzing for joy, rather disappointment and, ultimately, confusion.

Governor Sununu’s veto was immediately called into question by many, considering the bill’s broad base of support from both sides of the aisle. And his veto message clouds the waters even further with a litany of unsubstantiated and downright incorrect claims to back his decision.

There’s no doubt the governor should look out for the interests of all ratepayers and carefully review every proposal that comes before him that has the potential to impact rates. However, in this case there is absolutely no proof, credible or otherwise, that shows HB 365 is a regressive cost burden on New Hampshire citizens. Similarly, there is no evidence that the bill would hurt all ratepayers. Both statements are claimed in the governor’s veto message.

It appears the governor does not understand how the bill was specifically designed to mitigate any potential negative impacts on ratepayers.

The small and distributed renewable energy generation that would be added in our state as a result of HB 365 would significantly help reduce our peak demand by using that power to supply local electricity needs. Reducing peak demand would reduce costs for all ratepayers and reduce New Hampshire’s share of regional transmission and capacity costs.

A recent study found that distributed solar saved all New England ratepayers $20 million in energy costs in just one week during July 2018 by reducing demand during a heat wave and therefore reducing wholesale electricity prices. Small generators that net-meter don’t get capacity payments and don’t use the transmission system, both of which save all ratepayers money.

The fiscal note on the bill, prepared by the staff at the Public Utilities Commission, states that the bill would have an indeterminable effect on the costs paid by state government as a ratepayer. If there was any evidence that HB 365 would cost ratepayers hundreds of millions, as claimed by the governor, the potential cost evaluated by experts would not be indeterminable.

The net metering credit is only the default energy price, which is the same amount that utilities pay for electricity. Net-metered customers under HB 365 would always pay and never be credited distribution, transmission, demand, customer and system benefits charges.

HB 365 also directs utilities to handle excess electric generation coming onto their systems via net metering in a way that will be most beneficial to all ratepayers, by using it to reduce local load or offset line losses. The result: Utilities won’t have to import as much from their out-of-state suppliers and all ratepayers will save money.

There are at least 36 municipalities and dozens of businesses wanting to build net-metered projects between 1 and 5 MWs, but they need the Legislature to override the governor’s veto to do so. These projects would result in real savings for taxpayers in those communities.

In a move that clearly picks solar as a loser despite the administration’s commitment NOT to pick winners and losers, the veto message attacks large-scale solar developers. It is befuddling that the governor turned his back on his own slogan, “New Hampshire is open for business,” shunning companies that want to bring good jobs and investment into our state and severely limiting the ability of in-state developers to grow their businesses. The governor even outright ignores New Hampshire’s fleet of small hydropower generators who also could net-meter their generation and send the energy to schools and municipalities. There is capacity to generate more from these in-state resources using HB 365. Solar is not the only type of renewable energy that benefits our state.

Governor Sununu claims he is committed to advancing renewable energy in New Hampshire. However, his action to veto this bill says the exact opposite. HB 365 is sound energy policy supported by a broad coalition of bipartisan legislators, who we now implore to represent the interests of their constituents who elected them by overriding this veto.

Madeleine Mineau is executive director of Clean Energy NH.

Categories: Opinion