Last Friday, the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (PUC) issued a monumental order: effective September 1, the state will lift its Net Metering cap. If you aren’t familiar with the ongoing saga of net metering in America you might be wondering, why is this so exciting?
Net Metering is the policy under which the utilities give solar owners credit for the extra electricity they produce and send back into the grid. The alternative is “use it or lose it” i.e. anything a solar owner doesn’t use right when it’s made is sent into the grid with the owner getting no value for it whatsoever. Net Metering makes solar much more economical.
The new Net Metering rate is slightly less than the current rate, but still enough to help solar compete with other energy sources. Further, existing solar owners are grandfathered in at today’s higher rate through 2040. And, if you get “on the utility’s list” for solar by September 1, you’ll get the higher rate.
Today, New Hampshire has a net metering cap of 100 megawatts, which effectively limits the number of solar energy systems that can be net metered. Restricting the amount of homeowners and business owners who can participate in Net Metering is a huge issue for the solar industry and the people it serves.
Not only does it hurt people looking to install solar, but a cap also slows the growth of solar jobs, even forcing companies in some cases to lay people off due to cancelled or stalled projects. Eliminating the Net Metering cap, on the other hand, will help New Hampshire’s solar industry thrive, creating more jobs and more clean energy.
Utilities nationwide are lobbying against Net Metering touting the false assertion that it raises utility costs for ratepayers, hurting those who don’t own solar. The term for this is “cost-shifting.” The PUC hit that on the head, announcing that, “despite utility claims to the contrary, ‘there is little to no evidence of any significant cost-shifting’ from net metering,” according to a New Hampshire Union Leader article. In other words, unless you are a utility company trying to maximize revenue, Net Metering does not hurt you.
New Hampshire has embraced unlimited Net Metering and we hope to see more New England states follow. Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont have caps. Maine did away with Net Metering earlier this year. Rhode Island, to its credit, does not have a Net Metering cap, although only systems up to 10 MW are eligible.
On this issue, the state of “Live Free or Die” is leading its neighbors, to the benefit of its citizens.
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