What Are the Impacts of the 2018 NH Legislative Session?

The 2018 NH legislative session is over but for follow-up studies and action on vetoes.  It was similar to the 2017 session where the biggest issue was how to assist struggling NH biomass plants.  Because the 2017 solution, an increase in the alternative compliance payment for renewable energy credits under the renewable portfolio standard law, didn’t work as anticipated, they were back asking for a new approach.

The legislative solution this session, recently vetoed by Governor Sununu because of the expense to ratepayers, would require that electric distribution companies purchase the net energy output of biomass plants, and the one waste-to-energy plant, in their service areas over the next three years, and pay them a rate that is based on the default service rate.  The electric companies will sell that power into the market, and their ratepayers will pay for the difference.  In other action, the Governor vetoed a bill that would increase the maximum capacity of generating facilities that can be part of net energy metering from one megawatt to 5 megawatts.  The vote on whether to override gubernatorial vetoes is likely to take place in September.

The Legislature approved a bill that will suspend for three years, and thereby lift, a cap (in the purchase power agreement with Eversource) on what the owners of the Burgess BioPower Plant in Berlin receive and what the ratepayers can be charged.  The Legislature also passed a bill requiring that it approve any increase in the system benefits charge (which all electric ratepayers must pay and which is used to raise money for low-income assistance and energy efficiency programs).  The only exception is for SBC increases that the Public Utilities Commission approved in a 2016 order approving an energy efficiency resource standard.

While an attempt to change the Site Evaluation Committee process so that a project would be considered approved if no action had been taken within 365 days failed, legislation that increases the number of public members available to serve on the SEC and requires that SEC members receive annual training passed.

Legislation changing the responsibilities of the electric restructuring oversight committee also passed; it will now monitor the transformation of the delivery of electric services.  Also passing was a bill requiring a study of utility property valuation to reform the current system of taxing utility property.

A clarification in direction to the PUC and the Office of Consumer Advocate in how they advocate at the regional level passed.  Both will be required to focus on how regional determinations impact on rates to NH electric customers and to advocate against policies that are inconsistent with NH law.

Electric customers who buy their power from energy suppliers will now be able to join net energy metering groups.  A bill also passed which removes the review by the PUC of net metering group host agreements, and eliminates certain payment adjustments for small residential group host systems.  Certain county governments will soon be allowed to access certified competitive retail electric supply markets.

Also passing was a bill modifying the requirements for annual reports by providers of electricity concerning electric renewable portfolio standards and the disclosure of such information by the PUC, and a bill requiring providers of electricity to include the annual cost of compliance with RPS and a link to information about it on customers’ December bills.

About the Author: Douglas L. Patch

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