The Bulletin Board

Senate approves net metering increase for municipalities, adding it to community power bill  

By: - May 13, 2021 3:43 pm
An electricity meter on the side of a house.

The commission ruled the price was too high and would place “an enormous burden on New Hampshire ratepayers.” (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)

On Thursday, the Senate approved an increase in how much municipalities are allowed to net meter, moving the cap from the current limit of 1 megawatt up to 5 megawatts. Lawmakers have been pushing for this increase for years with the backing of environmental and clean-energy advocates, but previous attempts to increase the cap have failed after being vetoed by Gov. Chris Sununu.

The proposal to increase net metering added language from Senate Bill 109 to another bill, House Bill 315, that addresses community power.

“It’s been a long history with net metering,” said Sen. Jeb Bradley, a Wolfeboro Republican. He previously sponsored similar legislation that would have applied more broadly, allowing any entity to net meter up to 5 megawatts, as opposed to limiting it to municipalities.

Sen. Bill Gannon, a Sandown Republican, asked if net metering would increase the cost of electricity. Bradley said that in 2015 and 2016 the issue around cost was discussed extensively with the utilities commission, which said the impact would be “very limited.” Because the current proposal is even narrower, Bradley said he thought the effect would be “minimal” and it would have a beneficial impact on the towns that do implement net metering.

“That would be a significant benefit to taxpayers,” Bradley said.

Sen. David Watters, a Dover Democrat, called efforts around municipal net metering a “long struggle” that has stretched out over a few legislative sessions spanning years.

Net metering allows individuals or, in this case, municipalities that have their own renewable generation to get a credit on their energy bill for energy they contribute to the grid. If they produce their own energy, that is energy that they don’t have to purchase from a utility. Lawmakers in support of the proposal said that it would benefit ratepayers.

“This is really going to help our communities and local ratepayers,” Watters said.

Sen. Kevin Avard, a Nashua Republican, said the measure would allow municipalities to save money on the cost of energy and increase their energy independence.

The Senate bill, which had previously been tabled, was added to a House bill that focuses on community power.

A law that was passed in 2019 allowed for electric customers to band together when they buy electricity, which meant they could purchase it in bulk. But the 2019 law created some difficulty at the Public Utilities Commission, the entity that was charged with making rules to administer the program.

House Bill 315 aims to solve those issues so that community power can move forward.

The bill – which was initially opposed by community power advocates – went through an extensive overhaul in the House before gaining approval in that body. Now, the Senate has added its stamp of approval to both measures.

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s energy and environment reporter. She previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.