New Hampshire needs net metering expansion

Why Governor Sununu should sign Senate Bill 446

New Hampshire’s businesses and municipalities are continually searching for opportunities that can help them reduce their electricity costs, enhance revenues and become more energy independent. Net metering under Senate Bill 446 will provide just such opportunities, along with numerous other benefits, which is why we are strongly urging Governor Sununu to sign this bill into law.

Did you know that there are already more than 100 New Hampshire businesses, municipalities and school districts that are net metering under current law and seeing real savings off their electricity bills? This translates into savings for taxpayers and keeps our energy dollars in-state.

However, there is a problem. The current net metering law caps project eligibility at 1 megawatt, thus interfering with market-driven supply to meet the growing demand. Larger electricity users that want to net meter can’t, and those that want to participate in group net metering are faced with the reality that virtually all electricity produced by eligible projects below 1 MW is already spoken for.

SB 446 will increase New Hampshire’s current 1 MW cap to 5 MWs. This will expand the amount of locally produced renewable electricity available through net metering to more businesses, municipalities and schools, thereby lowering their cost of electricity. Moreover, an increase to a 5 MW cap will permit businesses and municipalities to undertake development of new right-sized renewable projects.

With the 5 MW limit under SB 446, only small projects like small hydro, combined heat and power, small solar, and small wind will qualify for net metering.  

At a time when the state’s options to mitigate electric cost increases are limited, this legislation is a concrete way to help larger electricity users reduce their energy costs, become more energy independent, and insulate themselves from electric price volatility and higher regional transmission costs. 

Furthermore, under SB 446, when businesses and municipalities invest their own capital in local small-scale renewable energy projects, it will drive economic activity and support jobs, which in turn will increase state and local business tax and property tax revenues. 

SB 446 will not be a subsidy to the renewable energy industry or create cost-shifting.

Consistent with the state regulator’s rules to avoid such impacts, consumers that use this new law will continue to pay all electric charges related to demand, transmission, distribution, stranded costs, system benefits and taxes; they will only be credited the default service rate for the self-generated power they use. Furthermore, consumers seeking to participate in group net metering will have a greater choice of competitive options that guarantee savings by enabling them to purchase electricity from a local New Hampshire energy producer for less than their utility’s default price and less than competitive suppliers’ prices. 

Given SB 446’s long list of benefits, it’s clear why larger energy users like Dartmouth Hitchcock, Foodstate, Monadnock Paper Mills, Timberland, Wire Belt Company of America, Worthen Industries, the University of New Hampshire, the NH Municipal Association and many cities, towns and schools all testified in support of the bill. It’s also clear why it passed the Senate and the House in a strong bipartisan fashion.  

SB 446 will expand customer choice and competitive options for retail electricity service by removing an unnecessary regulatory barrier. It will give New Hampshire’s medium and larger electricity users the same freedom to self-generate that is currently enjoyed by the state’s residential and other smaller consumers.  And it will preserve and promote economic activity, local jobs, in-state generation, and electric system reliability.

This is exactly the type of approach advocated by Governor Sununu to find ways to immediately lower the price of electricity in New Hampshire.  

Please join us in urging Governor Sununu to sign SB 446 into law.  It’s a win-win opportunity the Granite State can’t afford to pass up.

Tony Giunta is mayor of Franklin, David Worthen is president of Worthen Industries Inc. in Nashua, and Cordell Johnston is government affairs counsel at the NH Municipal Association.

Categories: Opinion