New Hampshire bill to expand system sizes while setting new rates for net metering

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The New Hampshire Senate has passed Senate Bill 446, ‘An act relative to net energy metering limits for customer-generators.’ The bill now heads to the House for consideration.

The bill would expand the limit on the capacity of renewable energy installations which can participate in the state’s net metering program from 1 MW to 5 MW. Additionally, sites with up to 5 MW of capacity are allowed as parts of larger projects up to 25 MW in capacity.

The also begins also orders state regulators to begin a process to determine a final rate for compensation for renewable energy projects within six months, as a further move away from retail rate net metering. Existing systems will be grandfathered in for 12 years, but then will move to the final rate.

SB 446 also sets out criteria for setting those rates

costs and benefits of customer generated facilities, avoidance of unjust and unreasonable cost shifting, rate effects on all customers, timely recovery of lost revenue by the utility using an automatic rate adjustment mechanism and electric distribution utilities administrative processes required to implement such rates.

The net metering program applies to hydroelectricity, wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.

2017 was a busy year for New Hampshire solar. The state eliminated a 100 MW limit on total net metering generation and in June, the PUC voted to keep the broader net-metering structure in place for system under 100 kilowatt (kW), while altering the compensation structure. Customer-sited generation still receives credits for 100% of generation and transmission costs, however distribution credits were lowered to 25% from 100%.

In this hearing in 2017, the PUC rejected the the utility’s argument that the current system unfairly shifts costs for the grid from solar to non-solar users, saying that the penetration rates are too low. This is in line with similar findings in other states.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Agency (EIA) shows solar representing 0.5% of New Hampshire 2017 electricity generation, or 87 gigawatt-hours (GWh) out of 17,500 GWh total generation, and found no solar plants larger than 1 MW. Of the 87 GWh of production, 56 GWh of that came from residential systems.

The total volume of solar power in New Hampshire grew almost 69% in 2017 over 2016, but the state’s rebate program hit a granite wall in the middle of the year.