The state of New Hampshire has no stated clean energy goals, despite being surrounded by two states with serious commitments. Massachusetts Climate Action Law calls for net-zero by 2050. Maine recently increased its renewable portfolio standard to 80% by 2030 and set a goal of 100% clean energy by 2050. This sharp contrast with its neighbors is a theme that carries through many state policies. However, the state’s clean energy market gets a boost from informed and environmentally aware organizations and individual residents, many of whom have – slowly but surely– pushed through changes in clean energy policies.
High electric bills are the impetus for many New Englanders to go solar, as New England states have some of the highest electric rates in the country. While New Hampshire’s rates are not the highest of the six-state region, they recently experienced a sharp increase. In 2022, for example, according to EIA data, residential electric rates were $21.26, up from $18.93 in 2021. Commercial rates also saw a spike, jumping from $15.40 in 2021 up to $17.54 this year.
Tax credits and exemptions
For those who seize the opportunity to go solar in New Hampshire, the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is currently 26% of system costs but looking for further incentives gets tricky. For starters, there is no property tax exemption offered by the state. Instead, RSA 72: 61-72 permits cities and towns to offer exemptions from local property taxes for certain renewable energy installations, meaning that those who go solar have to check on whether their individual town has issued either a full or partial exemption. Because property taxes are so high in New Hampshire (third highest in the country) exemptions are important for homeowners going solar.
State incentives and credits
The renewable energy fund was created by the legislature (RSA 362F) to help promote renewable energy initiatives in New Hampshire. The fund supports initiatives through rebate and grant programs. Feeding the fund is New Hampshire’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requires that 25% of the electric energy supplied in the state must be from renewable fuels and resources. Electricity providers who cannot purchase enough renewable energy or who cannot get it at a reasonable price are allowed to meet this requirement by making an alternative compliance payment to the renewable energy fund.
As for a state rebate for going solar, the State of New Hampshire’s Public Utilities Commission has a Residential Renewable Electric Generation Incentive Program that offers $0.20 per watt, up to a maximum of $1,000 or 30% of the total system cost, whichever is less.
In June of 2017 the New Hampshire PUC updated its net metering policy to enable small customer-generators (100kW or less) to net meter their distributed generation resources. According to the docket, “Those customer-generators will receive monthly excess export credits equal to the value of kWh charges for energy service and transmission service at 100 percent and distribution service at 25 percent, while paying nonbypassable charges, such as the system benefits charge, stranded cost recovery charge, other similar surcharges, and the state electricity consumption tax, on the full amount of their electricity imports from the electric grid”.
NH PUC has a renewable energy certificate (REC) program that uses the regional generation information system of energy certificates administered by ISO-New England and the New England Power Pool. However, RECs in NH are worth far less than in neighboring states. Recent REC prices have been about $30 per MWh, whereas a REC in Massachusetts is currently valued at about $300 per MWh.
New Hampshire gives a nod toward low- to middle-income residents with the Low-Income Community Solar Act (SB 165) of 2019 that expanded the original Clean Energy Jobs and Opportunity Act. It requires the NH PUC to authorize at least two new LMI community solar projects per utility territory each year starting in 2020. According to the 2020 Cost and Benefits Report, “When operational, the projects, as proposed, will generate an estimated 600,000 kilowatt-hours (kWh) annually and provide direct benefits to 123 LMI households, plus 21 non-LMI households”.
Senate bill 286 went into effect in 2019, allowing for community power, also known as municipal aggregation, which lets towns provide electricity to its residents and businesses on a competitive basis. Electricity is distributed through one of the four traditional utilities in NH– Eversource, Liberty Utilities, NH Electric Cooperative, and Unitil—and towns may choose to purchase power generated by solar, wind, or other attributes. Towns may also choose to construct a local energy project to provide the power to its Community Power program.
Six towns in New Hampshire have committed to the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign, a movement that aims to get towns to commit 100% clean, renewable energy. Hanover was the first town in the country to sign on, committing in 2017 to a goal of powering the entire community with 100% renewable energy for electricity by 2030 (heat & transportation by 2050).
With a total of only 164.8MW of solar installed in the state, New Hampshire is currently ranked 40th in the country for installed solar (down from 36th last year), and only 1.8% of the state’s electricity currently comes from solar.
The growth projection is even more bleak with only 427MW projected over the next five years, or a ranking of 42nd in the country. Let’s say that another way: Only eight states are expected to install less solar than New Hampshire through 2028. There are currently about 55 solar companies in New Hampshire, with a total of approximately 1,000 jobs in the industry.
To find out how to advance solar in New Hampshire and seize the clean energy opportunity, pv magazine spoke with Sam Evans-Brown, executive director of Clean Energy New Hampshire, a non-profit that provides services and resources to support the clean energy and tech communities. Evans-Brown indicated that step one in advancing clean energy in NH would be to expand the renewable portfolio standard. “We’ll keep trying to get policy wins every year and those will necessarily for a while be small, but with small incremental steps, we’ll get it done,” he said. For many years the largest solar arrays in the state were 1 and 2MW facilities, the most recent of which is own by the New Hampshire Electric Coop and located in Moultonborough. The good news is that the tide may be turning, with a few much larger facilities planned in the state. For example, the Chariot Solar 50MW project was recently approved to be built by NextEra Energy on an approximately 200-acre site in Hinsdale, New Hampshire, and expected to be operational next year.
This content is protected by copyright and may not be reused. If you want to cooperate with us and would like to reuse some of our content, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.