In a 19-4 vote Thursday, the New Hampshire Senate passed H.B.1116, a bill to double the state’s net energy metering (NEM) cap. The state House of Representatives approved it in March, and Gov. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., an outspoken supporter of raising the NEM limit, has pledged to sign the legislation into law. Furthermore, after laying off employees in January, one solar installer says the new policy certainty will ensure business thrives again.
State lawmakers have been working on increasing the 50 MW cap since New Hampshire utilities started reaching their allocated NEM amounts. Many solar installers said the problem slowed or altogether halted installations.
The Senate previously approved a different bill that would have raised the cap by 25 MW to 75 MW. However, the House eventually passed H.B.1116, which lifts the cap to 100 MW instead, and now the Senate has signed off on that version. Notably, the bill also orders state utility regulators to begin exploring alternative NEM tariffs.
New Hampshire Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, who sponsored the earlier Senate bill, says in a press release, “I support the net-metering cap increase that passed in the Senate today because it strikes an important balance between allowing continued renewable energy development while also enabling the public utilities commission to set a net-metering rate that better protects electric customers.”
In a statement, Gov. Hassan says she applauds “legislators from both parties for their recognition of the importance of lifting the cap on net metering, and I look forward to signing this bipartisan bill so that our clean energy industry can continue to grow and thrive.”
She adds, “Our growing clean energy economy has New Hampshire ranked as one of the top five states for renewable energy, and the clean energy industry, including solar, is playing a critical role in that success – creating good-paying, high-quality jobs, spurring economic development and helping combat climate change.”
The legislation is welcome news for SunRay Solar. After New Hampshire’s largest energy provider, Eversource, reached its NEM limit in January, the Concord, N.H.-based solar installer announced it was laying off nine employees.
Michael Fay, managing partner of SunRay Solar, tells Solar Industry that the company recently rehired those workers. Fay says the decision was made after seeing signs during a Senate public hearing that the cap was, indeed, going to be lifted.
“At the hearing, utilities seemed to be really on board and spoke on behalf of lifting the cap,” he explains. “That was extremely encouraging. We felt very confident that it would be raised, so we brought back the people we laid off for a couple of months.”
In addition, although SunRay Solar had abandoned plans to add about 20 new workers in January, Fay says this NEM legislation will now allow the company to move ahead with a team expansion.
He expects the cap lift will help support solar development for another year-and-a-half or so, “which gives the public utilities commission enough time to figure out a good path forward.”
Fay says that state legislators “deserve a lot of credit for understanding the benefits of solar” and adds that solar companies and advocates played a big part in making the legislation a reality: “As they say, ‘Public opinion drives the legislative agenda,’ and I think that really was the case.”
Last Thursday was a great day for the solar industry on the East Coast: In addition to New Hampshire, lawmakers in Massachusetts also finalized a bill to lift their state NEM cap. More information on that legislation is available here.