Seeking to avoid Sununu veto, Republicans push narrow expansion of net metering for cities 

Monitor staff
Published: 1/5/2021 4:35:22 PM

A group of Republican lawmakers is pushing for an expansion to net metering in New Hampshire, again. This time, they say they may have Gov. Chris Sununu on board. 

House Bill 106 would increase the state’s cap on net metering for New Hampshire municipalities and low-income solar projects. But it would exclude consumers and businesses from a similar exemption – a provision favored by Democrats that has led to vetoes from Sununu.

Sponsored by Rep. Tim Lang, a Sanbornton Republican and the chairman of the House Fish & Game and Marine Resources Committee, the bill has the support of other Republicans including Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, of Wolfeboro; Sen. Bob Giuda, of Warren, Sen. Erin Hennessey, of Littleton, as well as a handful of Republican and Democratic representatives.

Net metering is the ability for those who produce renewable energy – whether solar or hydro-electric facilities – to sell the rest back into the electrical grid at market rates. Currently, the state caps that power to generators of one megawatt; those who have larger generators must sell back the power back at wholesale rates, which are generally lower. Those rates are then credited against the renewable producer’s power bill, incentivizing them to continue producing renewable power.

The one-megawatt cap on generators for net metering means that large scale solar, wind or hydro-electric projects are largely unable to participate in the higher rates.

HB 106 would exempt municipalities from that one-megawatt cap, allowing them to sell back excess power at competitive rates even if their generators are bigger than one megawatt.

New Hampshire cities have been clamoring for the exemption for years, arguing that it is the best way to make clean energy projects financially viable. In both 2018 and 2019, all 10 of New Hampshire’s mayors wrote letters urging lawmakers to overturn vetoes from Gov. Chris Sununu of bills that would expand the limit, arguing that it would help them economically and let them build up a clean energy economy.

But past efforts to expand the net metering cap, made by Democrats, have been broader, and have not survived opposition from Sununu. Those bipartisan bills would have raised the one-megawatt cap for all net metering generators to five megawatts.

Sununu has consistently vetoed attempted broad expansions of net metering, arguing that forcing utility companies to pay for excess green energy will raise costs for those companies, translating into rate hikes for consumers. In veto messages, the governor has also painted the efforts as handouts to green energy companies. 

Clean energy advocacy groups dispute that analysis, arguing that gathering excess power from net metering could actually reduce costs for utility compa nies. 

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