My Turn: Municipal net metering expansion means more jobs, savings

For the Monitor
Published: 9/17/2021 7:00:01 AM

On the blue-sky morning of Aug. 26, Gov. Sununu signed HB 315, raising the cap on net metering from 1 megawatt to 5 megawatts for arrays that are owned by “political subdivisions,” mainly municipalities. This deserves a resounding “hooray!” in the world of progress.

In New Hampshire, net metering ensures solar customers get the biggest bang for their bucks. When a solar array generates more power than needed, this energy doesn’t go to waste when net metering is implemented. It feeds back into the grid, so other people in the region can power their homes on clean energy. In turn, solar customers get paid for the energy they supply to the utility company.

Many players are positioned to see positive outcomes from this net metering expansion. For instance, the town of Derry has a goal to achieve cost effective solutions for reduced energy use and sustainable energy development on town-controlled property. The town is developing a comprehensive plan to achieve the goal of “Net Zero” compliance by 2025. The new net metering expansion will allow them to install more solar to reach this goal. Under the previous 1-megawatt cap, municipalities sometimes had to break up their larger projects into smaller ones, even though it was more expensive.

“This new law will start to truly unlock the benefits of solar to communities,” says Sam Evans-Brown, executive director of Clean Energy New Hampshire. “The bigger a solar array, the better the economics become, and today these multi-acre solar farms are some of the cheapest forms of power you can build. And as towns learn how to build these arrays, they’ll start to realize the savings, spread the good word to their neighboring communities, and we’ll start to see a virtuous cycle that will push the clean energy economy forward.”

One such outcome of this “virtuous cycle,” is New Hampshire job creation. The renewable energy sector is already creating a steady influx of new jobs every year, but this will certainly be a nice and much-needed local boost.

The U.S. Department of Energy recently reported that, compared to the fossil fuel industry, the renewable energy sector in New Hampshire employs nearly twice as many people. And, during the pandemic, solar specifically saw less job loss than fossil fuels.

Granite State Solar’s solar advisor, Eric Kilens points to himself as an example of the success of renewable energy to provide quality, resilient jobs in our state. “This was my first “real” job after graduating from the University of New Hampshire and it gave me the opportunity to become a homeowner and eventually start my own family here in the great Granite State.” As Eric illustrates, more investment into renewable energy will help retain talented workers in New Hampshire who will continue to support our economy right here.

But, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association New Hampshire ranks just 40th in the nation for solar energy, so the passing of HB 315 is most definitely a step in the right direction but we have a lot more work to do, especially if we compare ourselves to Massachusetts who ranks 8th in the nation for solar.

“We need more pro-solar policies to be passed so we can untap the real potential impact the solar industry can have on the local economy and job creation here in New Hampshire,” said Kilens.

This expansion is a strong and promising move, but Granite Staters shouldn’t be so easily satisfied. There is still a limit on how much energy towns can net meter. Also, the previous 1-megawatt cap is still firmly in place for businesses and residents.

The passing of HB 315 shows New Hampshire is heading in the right direction with renewable energy. It’s important that more bills like HB 315 get implemented as the solar industry creates good-paying local job opportunities that overall help to fuel the local economy.

(Jane Stromberg is outreach & policy coordinator at Granite State Solar.)

My Turns are opinion-based essays submitted by Monitor readers and members of the community. The views expressed in My Turns are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Concord Monitor and its staff.




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