Raising net metering cap will benefit all of New Hampshire

HB 365 and SB 159 are commonsense tools for energy independence and cost savings

House Bill 365 and Senate Bill 159 create an effective, commonsense tool to give businesses in New Hampshire more freedom of choice when it comes to energy supply and energy savings.

These bills, if passed into law, will increase the allowable size of an electric generation project that a business, school or municipality can use to self-generate power (aka “net-meter”) to 5 megawatts, and set the credit for any excess power put into the grid at a level that avoids cost-shifting.

Why are these bills so important? An increasing number of businesses in the Granite State are either already generating a small amount of their own electricity through biomass boilers, solar arrays or small hydropower, or are seriously investigating such independent energy generation options. Many if not most of these businesses, especially in the manufacturing sector, need more than 1 MW of electricity to meet their energy needs. The 1 MW cap in current law restricts their ability to self-generate.

HB 365 and SB 159 will fix this problem. Large electricity consumers operating in competitive international marketplaces are sensitive to electricity pricing, and increasing New Hampshire’s net metering cap provides a critical opportunity to manage and control electricity supply and costs and reduce over-reliance on natural gas generation and the associated price volatility.

HB 365 and SB 159 also provide for group net energy metering, which is when a homeowner, business or municipality produces electricity from a solar installation, biomass boiler, wind turbine, or small hydro dam and sells the excess power to other businesses, individuals, or municipalities that have pooled their electricity consumption (i.e., “group”).

Passing HB 365/SB 159 into law will expand consumer choice, save ratepayers money and improve supply diversity without cost-shifting or subsidies (according to a 2018 Public Utilities Commission analysis) while encouraging electricity development and diversification to the benefit of the entire power grid.

New Hampshire has no oil and gas reserves, so our businesses are vulnerable to price swings in oil and natural gas markets. But our small hydroelectric dams, solar arrays and biomass boilers provide important fuel diversity and thus a cushion against volatile fossil-fuel energy markets.

Best of all, HB 365/SB 159 promote locally sourced power, thus encouraging job creation and helping keep our energy dollars close to home. That will spur investment, support local jobs and increase state and local tax revenues.

More than a dozen New Hampshire businesses and nearly 40 New Hampshire communities are seriously considering developing or expanding their own power generation upon passage of HB 365/SB 159. These commitments represent tens of millions of dollars in new investment, local jobs and new local tax revenue. Furthermore, more than 100 private organizations, school districts, municipalities and government agencies already participate in group net metering supplied by small hydro, and another 22 schools and municipal and government entities want to participate but can’t due to the current 1 MW generation cap.

Finally, HB 365/SB 159 will save money for taxpayers as well as all ratepayers. For example, many municipalities want to convert their abandoned landfills into solar power sites, turning a liability into an asset. Not only will the taxpayers enjoy lower electric costs, but private renewable power projects will also provide additional tax revenues and lease payments for municipalities.

As far as New Hampshire ratepayers are concerned, net metering is a hedge against increasing power costs – more supply means lower costs – and against rising transmission costs, which have increased 555 percent since 2005.

Without expanded net metering to help curb the state’s peak demand, our peak will likely keep growing and so too will our share of regional electric costs. For example, if our share increases by just two-tenths of a percent, New Hampshire ratepayers could face an additional $24.6 million in transmission costs alone, based on $12.3 billion in recent regional transmission investment. The more power New Hampshire can produce in-state, the less we have to import (i.e., “transmit”).

The bottom line on both HB 365 and SB 159 is that these bills encourage more local production of renewable energy, and the benefits of doing that are abundant for New Hampshire’s taxpayers, ratepayers, businesses and municipalities. This is why we ask the General Court to support the passage of HB 365 and SB 159.

Steven French is president of Abenaki Timber Corp./SFR Hydro Inc.; Marcella Perry is director, Diprizio Pine Sales and Middleton Building Supply; Richard Verney is chair and CEO of Monadnock Paper Mills Inc.; and David Worthen is president of Worthen Industries.

Categories: Energy and Environment, Opinion