Rooftop Solar under Threat in New Hampshire

Melissa Birchard

Some state legislators are gunning for rooftop solar.

Last year, New Hampshire legislators passed a bill that directed the Public Utilities Commission to open a proceeding to collect and analyze data to decide two things: First, whether the state needs a cap on the number of solar and other distributed clean energy installations permitted in the state, and, second, how much the utilities should pay for the energy that the electric grid receives from those clean energy installations.

The PUC followed the law and opened a proceeding last year, which is ongoing. But now a group of legislators are trying to circumvent this legal process and essentially shut down rooftop solar and other clean energy resources in the state. Their just-introduced bill, HB 518, claims to end the current “cap” on net metering (the method by which rooftop solar panel owners are compensated for electricity they put back into the grid). But the bill will actually gut the compensation rate for rooftop solar, and is guaranteed to put a halt to installations by families and businesses across the state.

Solar Power Saves Everyone Money & Will Help Meet Future Demand

The bill sponsors are not the only ones who have it out for clean, local, solar power. Utilities are also taking aim. Rooftop solar and other clean energy resources will be more and more helpful as electric vehicles, heat pumps, and other new technologies gain ground in New Hampshire. These exciting technologies can lower our bills and protect the environment, but they are going to increase our use of electricity. By promoting more rooftop solar and other local clean energy sources, we can keep up with that increased electricity demand without having to build more dirty power plants, more ugly transmission and distribution lines, and more dangerous natural gas infrastructure.

Rooftop solar can meet our needs at the source of the demand – our homes and businesses. But utilities and their big money affiliates make loads of cash for their investors by building big stuff – that’s their business model. So it’s in their wealthy investors’ interests to cut what gets paid to rooftop solar and other distributed energy generators that reduce the need for those lucrative infrastructure investments.

We Can’t Let Politics Trump Expertise

But the story doesn’t end there. A few days ago, legislators put the solar-killing bill in the New Hampshire legislature (HB 518) on “reserve” in the House energy committee until the Public Utilities Commission process is over. But they promise to re-activate it, if they don’t like what the PUC finds – an unfortunate and not-so-subtle effort to politically influence what should be an objective, expert process at the PUC.

The Public Utilities Commission and its expert staff are doing their best under these conditions. PUC staff recently filed expert analysis in the ongoing docket that concludes there is no data to support imposing big extra charges on customers with rooftop solar. But the utilities and certain legislators are thumbing their nose at this expert conclusion and insisting on slashing the benefits of installing rooftop solar to a level where it won’t be able to continue in the state. In these days of anti-science politics, objective regulatory agencies and data-based analysis are more important than ever. We know that, and the PUC and its staff deserve support, not political meddling.

Solar Power Puts Money in Our Pockets, Instead of in Big Energy’s

Anti-solar forces argue that customers with rooftop solar should pay extra charges even though they provide clean energy where we need it, reduce wear and tear on the system by lowering energy demand (just like installing an LED lightbulb) and cut overall costs by lessening the need for massive investments like power plants and transmission lines. They don’t care what the data shows, or what the objective experts find. The truth is they want more massive natural gas pipelines and more energy infrastructure investments because those kinds of investments line the pockets of Big Energy.

In the coming days we’re going to need your help more than ever to protect the future of solar in New Hampshire. Thanks to those who already submitted comments to the PUC docket in response to our prior call for action. Because the deadline for a PUC decision was extended, you can still submit comments if you haven’t yet (see below for details). In the coming days we’ll also be updating you on additional actions you can take to help keep New Hampshire a state where rooftop solar and other clean technologies can thrive.

Together, let’s protect our right to clean, locally made energy here in New Hampshire!

Your Voice Matters: Contact the PUC

Speak out to support rooftop solar and other clean energy in New Hampshire. Anyone can submit comments to the Public Utilities Commission by sending a letter to:
Debra A. Howland, Executive Director
New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission
Re: Docket No. DE 16-576
21 S. Fruit St., Suite 10
Concord, NH 03301
debra.howland@puc.nh.gov

Please tell the Commission that net metering benefits all electric customers and helps to preserve our New Hampshire way of life – while keeping us moving forward into a healthy, clean energy future. It helps us avoid dirty energy projects and scarring transmission lines, and empowers families to take control of their energy – and climate – futures. New Hampshire continues to lag behind other states when it comes to how much solar energy powers our homes and businesses, but it doesn’t have to.

Thank you for taking action.

You can read more about CLF’s positions in the ongoing PUC docket here.

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