What Is the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) in New Hampshire?

Like many states, New Hampshire has a renewable portfolio standard (RPS) law that requires certain percentages of renewable generation be included in the mix of electricity provided to customers in the state.   The percentages escalate over time.  You may remember the phrase “25 by 25,” which means 25% renewable power by the year 2025.  In the absence of federal legislation mandating renewable power generation, many states have enacted RPS legislation.  NH’s law, enacted in 2007, requires that the Public Utilities Commission, the agency responsible for implementing and administering the RPS law, complete a periodic review of the law.   The PUC reviewed various features of the law in 2011 and noted that NH had made real progress toward accomplishing the goals outlined in the law, including helping to create hundreds of new renewable energy systems, developing a broader project installation and support services market, and contributing project revenues toward diversifying and increasing the regional renewable power portfolio.  The revenues come from contributions that providers of electricity must make to a renewable energy fund when they cannot meet the minimum RPS requirements because they cannot buy the percentage of power required from four classes of renewable sources.

In November of 2018, the PUC completed another review of the RPS law, finding in this review that the RPS law continues to accomplish the goals of the law and that it has increased use of renewable fuels and the development of renewable technologies while providing economic and environmental benefits.  In this report, the PUC said that over the past decade NH’s renewable generation has doubled, thereby reducing reliance on fossil fuels and emissions; whereas in 2007 under 10% of NH’s electricity generation came from renewable sources, by 2017 that had risen to 20%.  This compares to regional figures of 11.1% in 2007 and 17.8% in 2017.  This comparison suggests that NH has done a better job than of advancing renewable energy goals than the region as a whole.

The 2018 report notes utility scale renewable facilities that have commenced operation in NH since 2007, including Groton Wind, Lempster Wind, Jericho Mountain Wind and the Burgess BioPower Plant (the Granite Reliable Wind Project in Coos County should also be noted).  The report also mentions thousands of small commercial scale and residential distributed generation systems as well as somewhat larger solar projects and small scale hydropower projects (most of which predated the RPS law), and a landfill project.   By the end of 2017, NH had about 70 megawatts of solar capacity installed, providing enough power for 11,080 homes.

The latest PUC RPS report goes on to cite the impact that clean-tech industries have had on the state, including 13,000-20,000 associated jobs with average salaries that are 50% higher than the state average.  At the same time, the 70MW of solar power installed in NH is estimated to have avoided over 2,800 tons of carbon dioxide annually.   The 2018 report has recommendations to the Legislature on improvements that could be made to the law.  Some of these are currently under consideration. While the next report is scheduled for 2025, the PUC has recommended that the Legislature require an earlier one in 2021.

A copy of the 2018 report can be viewed at:

http://www.puc.state.nh.us/20181101-RPS-Review-2018-FINAL-REPORT-2018-11-01.pdf

About the Author: Douglas Patch

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