Net Metering Moves forward in New England
Over the last year, the future of solar power has been at the center of debates moving forward on both sides of the Connecticut River – in Vermont and New Hampshire. As both have hit caps on net metering participation, regulators in these neighboring states have taken a close look at the policy, which allows solar customers to be fairly compensated for the local, clean energy they are generating.
Vermont, home to strong energy policy and our 2014 Utility Solar Champion Green Mountain Power, has a robust solar market with the eighth most solar per capita in the country. The state’s electric utility regulatory body, the Public Service Board (PSB), has been considering what this strong solar growth means for their existing net metering policy. Currently, solar customers receive credit for solar at a rate a few cents above the retail rate of electricity. The PSB is attempting to reduce the net metering credit rate, while removing the cap on the program to allow unhindered solar growth.
In February, following months of consideration and stakeholder input, the PSB released a problematic draft rule. The draft rule would have greatly reduced the overall value of net metering, limited access to solar and allowed utilities to levy burdensome charges on solar customers. Along with our partners and other local solar supporters, we responded quickly with suggestion for improvements and the PSB thankfully set about revising the proposed rule.
This April, the PSB introduced a new draft rule for stakeholder feedback. The new draft was clearly influenced by the input of solar and clean energy supporters and was much improved – restoring equal access to solar and removing the solar-specific charge. With room still left for improvement, we joined a standing-room-only crowd to testify this past week in Montpelier to further strengthen the rule for Vermont’s energy consumers. We expect the PSB to issue a final rule in the coming weeks and then the Secretary of State will approve the rule.
With about a fifth as much solar installed as its neighbors in Vermont, New Hampshire also faced the challenge of a looming net metering cap of 50 megawatts. Lawmakers in the Granite State spent the first several months of 2016 debating if and how to raise its restrictive cap and clear the way for growing consumer demand for solar power.
That question was answered with Governor Maggie Hassan signing a bill into law last week that doubles the cap to 100 megawatts, allowing continued solar growth. The bill also requires the state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to begin a process to decide what the state’s future net metering policy should look like. This discussion, much like those taking place in states across the country including nearby New York, will be critically important to the future of the solar market in the state. We will engage in this regulatory process to advocate for a strong compensation mechanism and related rate design so that New Hampshire families, businesses and communities can continue to invest in homegrown solar power.