By Nancy West,
CONCORD – The state Public Utilities Commission issued a major ruling Friday on the future of net metering and the development of clean energy in New Hampshire.
Net metering allows electric bill credits to customers that generate more power than they use from onsite renewable sources such as solar and wind.
The PUC action came about as the result of legislation passed last year directing it to develop a new alternative net metering tariff.
The order states: “It provides for the adoption of an alternative net metering tariff to be in effect for a period of years while further data is collected and analyzed, pilot programs are implemented, and a distributed energy resource valuation study is conducted.”
Three utilities were mandatory participants in the docket – Public Service Company of New Hampshire d/b/a Eversource Energy. Liberty Utilities (Granite State Electric) Corp. d/b/a Liberty Utilities, and Unitil Energy Systems, Inc.
Melissa Birchard is a lawyer with the Conservation Law Foundation, one many organizations and people that filed as intervenors in the PUC case, including the Office of Consumer Advocate.
“On the whole we’re optimistic this puts the Granite State on a good long-term path for clean energy development,” said Birchard.
The ruling makes cuts to the net metering program that’s just starting to take off in New Hampshire, she said, while other states in the region are reaping the financial benefits of strong energy efficiency and net metering programs.
“New Hampshire is already lagging behind in both. If we don’t keep up, our electric rates will rise while those other states pay less and less,” Birchard said.
But Birchard added that the “PUC rejected the most draconian arguments put forward by the utilities, who want to continue to line their pockets – and the pockets of their big money affiliates – with the revenues from massive projects like Northern Pass and Kinder Morgan, and see credits to New Hampshire families and businesses for rooftop solar as a threat to the need for more big infrastructure projects.”
Martin Murray, spokesman for Eversource, said the PUC adopted the common elements of the two settlements that were developed – and is committed to resolving remaining differences.
“There seems to be broad agreement that everyone who uses the energy grid should share fairly in the cost of the grid,” Murray said. “Eversource is looking forward to participating in the working groups and studies that the order indicates will soon get underway.”
Birchard said because of an energy roadmap proposed by the Conservation Law Foundation and others, the PUC will launch a broad study of the benefits that clean, local energy provide the state.
“Once that study is ready, we can plug in the value of clean energy technologies to make them more competitive in the open markets. This decision puts us on a path toward more local clean technology innovation and less need for big, expensive infrastructure,” Birchard said.
Birchard also applauded the PUC announcement in the order that the state will immediately launch new small-scale clean energy programs to demonstrate which innovations can save the most money on electric bills.
“With real-life evidence from these clean-tech demonstration programs, we can bring innovations to the entire state that not only save us money, but also make the grid stronger and safer,” Birchard said.
For more information about InDepthNH.org, which is published online by the New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism, contact Nancy West at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 603-738-5635