Boost to NH Local Solar Energy Clears Hurdle
CONCORD, N.H. – The New Hampshire solar energy industry received a major boost yesterday when the state Senate unanimously passed a bill that would expand the use of solar power.
Senate Bill 159 increases the amount of electricity that public utilities must accept from private producers of solar energy – a system often referred to as "net metering" – from one megawatt to five megawatts.
Madeleine Mineau is the executive director of Clean Energy New Hampshire, which has been a key supporter of the legislation.
"That is good news for New Hampshire because that would allow us to generate much more of our own energy in-state, and reinvest our energy dollars in our own economy and create jobs,” says Mineau. “We're really seeing this as an opportunity for larger energy users, where one megawatt of generation doesn't satisfy their onsite use."
Governor Chris Sununu vetoed a similar bill last fall. But supporters point out that another net-metering bill passed the House two weeks ago by a wide enough margin to override a veto this year.
At deadline, the governor's press office was unavailable for comment.
Local New Hampshire communities are expected to benefit from increasing the net-metering cap, says Tony Guinta, mayor of Franklin. According to Guinta, it will allow for cities and towns to put vacant property to use, and negotiate with developers who want to build large-scale solar projects.
"We are looking for new alternatives of ways to reduce, or at least stabilize, property tax rates,” says Guinta. “We see solar and the growth of solar as one of those opportunities – mainly because there are a lot of municipalities that have unproductive lands and properties. There are multiple opportunities here."
Guinta says cities like his can then purchase energy from the projects at lower rates, thereby saving money for their taxpayers.
Now that each net-metering bill has passed its original chamber, its next steps are to be heard in the other chamber. The House version, House Bill 365, gets its Senate hearing next week.