New Hampshire’s RPS bill would supercharge solar

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In an effort to build on the state’s less-than-ambitious 25% by 2025 Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) policy, the New Hampshire Senate has passed a bill looking to raise the portion supplied by solar. SB 168 passed on Thursday by a 217-139 vote.

SB 168 specifically looks to increase Class II renewables. Under the state’s existing RPS, wind energy, hydrogen derived from biomass fuels or methane gas, ocean thermal, wave, current or tidal energy, methane gas and solar electric systems put into operation before January 1, 2006 are all Class I renewables, while the Class II designation is comprised solely of solar electric systems put into operation after January 1, 2006.

Under SB 168, Class II renewables would increase to 1.2% of all renewable energy or energy credits purchased in 2019, 1.9% in 2020, 2.6% in 2021, 3.3% in 2022, 4.0% in 2023, 4.7% in 2024 and 5.4% in 2025. For comparison, Class II renewables are set to make up 0.6% in 2019 and then 0.7% from 2020 to 2025 under the state’s current RPS. This percentage is determined based off of the total MWh supplied by the resource in a calendar year.

According to Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), New Hampshire has been on target in reaching the solar designation under the current RPS, with 0.6% of the state’s electricity coming from solar in 2018. It should be obvious by now that this legislation is wildly significant, as, if passed, it would call for an immediate doubling of the portion of electricity coming from solar by the end of this year. By 2025, that number becomes a ninefold increase. Considering the state currently has 85 MW installed, according to SEIA, that is a lot of development and in a short time.

An interesting note within the bill is that certain electrical supply contracts will be unaffected. The bill’s language outlines that

The increases in the annual purchase percentages… shall not apply to the megawatt-hours delivered during the contract term under any electrical power supply contract entered into before the effective date of this section, provided that the contract term in effect before such effective date has not been extended or otherwise increased after that date.

This is basically a “from here on out clause,” meaning that anything that has already been signed by the time of this bill’s passing can remain in its existing state, however all future contracts must adhere to it.

Even with that provision, this bill is huge news for a state with weak solar policy overall, especially when compared to its immediate neighbors: Vermont and Massachusetts. The bill still has a long way to go before it becomes law, but with Democrats controlling both branches of the legislature, there is hope on the horizon.