In late June, solar energy stakeholders in New Hampshire rejoiced when the public utilities commission (PUC) released new order effectively removing the solar net-metering cap in the state.
The new order allows all customers with systems of <100kW to receive a monthly excess export bill credit up to 100 percent of the energy and transmission costs and 25 percent of the distribution services. Customers will still be required to pay non-bypassable charges such as the system benefits charge, stranded cost recovery charge and the state electricity consumption tax on the full amount of their electricity imports for the grid. New customers with solar or small hydro will receive new meters that will measure both total imports and total exports.
The New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association (NHSEA) is pleased with the news.
“This is a result that will protect and benefit utilities, businesses, ratepayers and the renewable energy industry,” said Kate Epsen, Executive Director of NHSEA.
The organization worked for nearly a year with its allies and stakeholders to bring data in front of the PUC and the public so that a clear understanding of the impacts of net-metering distributed energy resources (DER) was visible.
“We went into this process open-minded and ready to share and receive the critical information necessary to inform the ultimate decision, and worked with each and every other party to reach a fair and evidence-based result,” said Epson.
According to NHSEA, the record showed that net-metering is good for all consumers and that “there is little to no evidence of any significant cost-shifting.” Regulators often fear that if too many customers in a state net-meter, the burden of paying for the grid itself will fall on those without generating capacity, thereby cost-shifting to rate-payers who may not be able to afford to self-generate in the first place.
“By finding no evidence of significant cost-shifting to other ratepayers, the Commission allows for a gradual transition in compensation while further studies and pilots occur,” said Ellen Hawes, an analyst at the Acadia Center.
The order removes the statewide cap, which was previously in effect and directs NH utilities to conduct a Value of DER study. Systems already installed in the state and those installed while the study is being conducted will be grandfathered in at the rates set forth in the order.
“Net metering has been fundamental in creating a strong solar market in New Hampshire, and around the country. The Public Utilities Commission’s order Friday will keep the sun shining on solar in the future,” said Nathan Phelps, program manager of DG regulatory policy at Vote Solar.
“New Hampshire has a robust solar industry, with nearly 1,200 jobs and a growth rate that exceeds nearly all other sectors,” said NHSEA’s Epson, adding “solar and small hydro energy are local, in-state forms of energy that generate significant economic activity, which helps our towns, communities, businesses and families.”
Sidebar: Key Components of the Order (courtesy NHSEA):
- The new NEM rate begins on September 1, 2017. May be later if utilities can’t update their billing systems in time to reflect the new NEM regime. Customers must be given 30 days notice in advance of the new rate start date.
- Grandfathering – all existing NEM systems are still grandfathered through 2040. NEW systems (under new rate) also grandfathered through 2040.
- Small systems ≤100 kW are still credited monthly at 100% of retail energy and transmission charges but only 25% of distribution charge; the customer will receive monetary bill credits instead of kWh credits (allowing cash payment if customer moves or annual credit balance exceeds $100)
- Large systems >100kW are still credited monthly at the default energy rate; bill credits now monetary instead of kWh.
- All customer-generators must pay non-bypassable charges (system benefits, stranded cost recovery, storm recovery) based on full amount of electricity imports without netting exports.
- Monthly Netting is maintained – all non-bypassable charges are netted on a monthly billing basis still.
- Value of DER Study: Eversource must perform a marginal cost of service study within twelve months (of Order date) to inform the Value of DER study. Value of DER study will focus on solar and small hydro and use a 10-15 year framework for the analysis. Staff will direct/manage the study, hire a consultant to help perform it, and will begin by convening a workgroup to develop scope of study within two months’ time of this Order.
- Statewide Cap- No new cap was set (so effectively the cap has been removed).
- Pilots – Four pilot programs are approved, including: Time-of-Use (Eversource and Unitil only), shared bill credits for low/moderate income customers, Real-Time-Pricing for one municipality (Lebanon), and a non-wires alternative pilot.