Governor Signs Solar Legislation into Law

With the stroke of a pen, Governor Sununu recently signed Senate Bill 165, relative to net energy metering by low-moderate income community solar projects, into New Hampshire law.  In a press release, the Governor stated:

“I have long fought for low-income Granite Staters to receive the benefit of solar development across our state and am proud to sign Senate Bill 165 into law today. It is only logical that we put the interest of Granite Staters struggling to pay the bills each month above the interest of developers. I am pleased to have worked with legislative leaders to craft this bipartisan, commonsense legislation.”

The bipartisan bill, known as the “Low-Income Community Solar Act of 2019,” modifies the method for calculating net energy metering credits for low-moderate income community solar group host projects.

The Act will require each utility to build at least two solar projects in their service areas annually that would benefit residents with a household income at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.  In return, lower-income residents will benefit from energy cost savings through programs like net metering.  Net metering allows a customer to install solar panels on their home or business, use that energy to reduce what they pull from the grid during periods of high energy use, and get credits off their energy bill for any excess energy put back into the grid during periods of low energy use. This allows the customer to lower their energy bills. This has recently been expanded to include group net metering, where a group of consumers can share the benefits of an off-site solar array. Typically, however, a customer must either purchase or finance the solar infrastructure in order to take advantage of the benefits of the lower energy costs. Senate Bill 165 is designed to remove that barrier and provide the benefits of net metering directly to those groups who might benefit from lower monthly energy bills the most: low and moderate-income residents.

For those low-moderate income community solar projects authorized by the Public Utilities Commission (“PUC”), the Act provides for an additional incentive payment of 3 cents per kWh of energy generated until July 1, 2021, after which the payment drops to 2.5 cents per kWh.  The bill also provides that on or before July 1, 2022, the PUC shall draft a report on the costs and benefits of such an addition and the development of the market for low-moderate income community solar projects, and provide further recommendations.  It will be interesting to see the PUC’s analysis of the Act and its impact on the New Hampshire solar energy market in the future.

As Attorney Susan Geiger’s prior energy blog noted, this bill mandates a process that is already underway.

About the Authors: Lindsay Nadeau and Nat Morse

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