(Opinion) Give NH businesses a shot at reducing high electric prices

Senate bill would expand net metering to large industrial users

While we may seem like an odd group — an advanced castings manufacturer, a wholesale grocer and an innovator in industrial adhesives and coatings — we actually have a lot in common.

First, we’re proud to have started successful independent businesses here in New Hampshire, in the state we call home. Our business values are rooted in Granite State tradition — we’re focused on delivering quality products while taking care of our people: our employees, our customers and our communities. Even more, we embrace sustainability and self-reliance, values that encourage us to seek innovative practices that result in both a healthy planet and a competitive business.

Together, we want to see New Hampshire continue to support the shared values of our thriving business community, and we think there’s a smart bill running through Concord that will do just that. Senate Bill 79 will allow businesses to generate low-cost renewable energy here at home to offset our reliance on expensive, imported energy sources.

Let’s cut to the facts. It’s no secret that New Hampshire has some of the highest electricity rates in the country. The U.S. Energy Information Administration calculates the average price of electricity each month, and in January 2023, New Hampshire’s residential and commercial sector had the second-highest rates in the country, while our industry sector sits in the top five. Sadly, these are not charts we are proud of topping.

Part of the problem is that our state relies on pricey, imported energy sources to fuel our economy. When energy costs are high, you can bet that impacts our bottom line. Without control or predictability, we are ultimately less competitive, as our hard-earned profit is going to our electricity bill instead of into growth and investment in our local community.

Fortunately, New Hampshire has abundant renewable energy sources right here — energy we can harness and utilize at lower prices by passing sensible legislation.

Back in 2021, Governor Sununu signed House Bill 315 into law after it passed the state Senate with unanimous bipartisan support. It permitted an incremental expansion in net metering for large municipal consumers of electricity. The law allows cities and potentially towns to offset imported energy costs by turning old landfills into solar farms above the previous cap of one megawatt, provided projects do not produce more power than the municipality uses annually, and they are located within city bounds.

This ultimately puts cities in the driver’s seat, giving them greater control of their energy costs.

We are excited that Sen. Tim Lang, R-Sanbornton, has introduced Senate Bill 79, which would apply the same principle from House Bill 315 to industrial-scale businesses in New Hampshire. This would allow businesses like ours to install renewable net metering generators up to 5 megawatts annually. It comes with two key assurances: that generation matches the needs of the business, and that businesses actually consume the energy produced.

If passed, this legislation would alleviate the current cost burden borne by New Hampshire businesses, while delivering substantial benefits to the grid, according to recent analysis from the NH Department of Energy. As the Business & Industry Association’s testimony in support of the bill noted, this would ultimately give businesses owners like us the opportunity to manage the high cost of energy and stay competitive.

Let’s take the opportunity to align our energy choices with our business values. Let’s allow New Hampshire businesses to take control and cut their energy costs, so we can get back to doing what we do best: delivering quality, taking care of our people and investing in our local economies. Let’s pass Senate Bill 79.

John H. Morison IV is executive vice president of Hitchiner Manufacturing, Milford. Mike Violette is president and CEO of Associated Grocers of New England, Pembroke. David Worthen is CEO of Worthen Industries, Nashua.

Categories: Opinion