- New Hampshire's House of Representatives could vote in early January on Senate Bill 159, to expand the state's net metering cap five-fold and allow larger generators to take part in the program.
- Renewables advocates say it would give a significant boost to New Hampshire's solar industry, which lags behind neighboring states. The Senate passed the bill unanimously in March.
- The legislation's outlook is uncertain and supporters say it may need to be modified to eventually become law. Gov. Chris Sununu, R, earlier this year vetoed a similar effort to expand the solar generator cap from 1 MW to 5 MW.
Sununu vetoed net metering expansions in 2018 and 2019, and supporters acknowledge the latest attempt will need to be amended in order to avoid a similar outcome. There are indications, say sources, that a deal may be in the works.
"This is part of an ongoing effort to extend net metering," Executive Director of Clean Energy New Hampshire Madeleine Mineau told Utility Dive. "Allowing larger projects to participate in net metering would cause a serious expansion of solar."
Solar provides less than 1% of New Hampshire's electricity, whereas in Vermont it makes up more than 10% of the state's supply. "We're far behind," Mineau said. But she also said SB 159 could lead to "tremendous growth" of New Hampshire's solar resources if it can become law.
"There have been multiple attempts to pass this," Mineau said. "Considering the makeup of the House and Senate hasn't changed, it is likely to pass again."
Sununu vetoed HB 365 to expand net metering earlier this year, citing concerns over the impact on ratepayers. In 2018, he vetoed Senate Bill 446, which had similar aims. Neither subsequent lawmaker vote to override the veto was successful, though the most recent attempt failed by only about a half dozen votes.
The latest attempt to expand the net metering cap could see a vote as soon as Jan. 8, when the House reconvenes. But while it is expected to pass, Sen. Cindy Rosenwald, D, told Utility Dive she anticipates opposition. She co-sponsored the bill and said a minority report arguing against the net metering expansion will be published in the House calendar before the vote.
"It generally signals opponents intend to fight it," she said.
As for the outlook, Rosenwald said it is unclear what will happen. "The governor has been very unfriendly to renewables and energy efficiency bills throughout his tenure."
According to Mineau, for SB 159 to "have a chance to pass without being vetoed there would have to be further amendments." She added there are "several conversations going on" regarding possible changes to the bill.
Sununu's office did not respond to a request for comment.
Rep. Fred Plett, R, serves on the Science, Technology and Energy committee and voted against SB 159. He says the bill will raise rates for consumers.
"There's no such thing as a free lunch," he told Utility Dive. Raising the net metering cap to 5 MW means the state's consumers will be paying a retail rather than wholesale rate for more energy, he said. Plett has previously said the idea to expand net metering could cost consumers $5 billion.
Supporters of the measure say utilities will save on a reduced transmission allocation from ISO New England, because more net-metered solar generation would reduce the state's load profile.
"ISO New England isn't that stupid," Plett said. "They'll change the allocation methods."
Plett said he is aware there is talk of a compromise with the governor's office, possibly restricting the cap expansion in some way. But he said he doubts any changes could get him to support the measure.
"Whatever happens will raise rates," he said. "Prices to New Hampshire consumers will increase. My job is to keep taxes and rates low."
New Hampshire electric utility Eversource said it is "concerned" with SB 159 "as it is currently drafted."
In an email to Utility Dive, the company said the bill "could have a disproportionate financial impact on cost increases for Eversource customers and it includes ambiguous language that allows generators to participate without contributing to load reduction."
Eversource said it plans to continue working with legislators from both parties "as this bill makes its way through the legislative process."