Those of you who care about where your electricity comes from or how much you pay for it should care about the fate of two bills now in play in Concord. The Republican–led House and Senate worked in bipartisan fashion and overwhelmingly passed SB446 and SB365 to support and expand renewable energy in New Hampshire. Governor Sununu vetoed both bills.
SB446 takes a good idea and makes it better. In 2013, then–Senator Molly Kelly led the passage of the state’s first group net metering law. This allowed the state’s small scale renewables industry to take off and it helped many small hydro generators stay in business. It worked by allowing renewable electric generators to sell their energy to consumers at rates designed to reduce the consumers’ electric bills. Participants still pay the local utilities for using their wires. Businesses, towns and schools all over the state are now saving money through group net metering. SB446 simply increases the size of the renewable generator that can participate in this program.
Governor Sununu said he vetoed SB446 because it would shift costs onto those electricity customers who were not yet net metering. However, the Public Utilities Commission spent nine months analyzing net metering and declared that there was “little to no evidence of any significant cost shifting.” In addition to this positive finding, there are numerous jobs and economic benefits, including increased state and local tax revenues, associated with our growing small-scale solar industry and the scores of small hydro plants that are still in business because of net metering.
The Governor used similar reasoning in his veto of SB365, which seeks to boost the rate paid to the state’s remaining biomass energy plants for 3 years. He claimed the bill would cost ratepayers. In fact, the opposite is true. If SB365 does not pass, these plants will shut down. This will result in 100 megawatts of generating capacity taken off the grid. The cost to New Hampshire of such a capacity loss would be about $17 million per year indefinitely. This cost, coupled with losing hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity from the plants’ operations, would outweigh any cost that could be attributed to the bill.
The truth about the state’s energy future is more complicated than most people care to know. But there is one fact everyone should understand. The major drivers of increases in your energy bills are the costs to transmit and distribute that energy to your home or business, often from out of state. An obvious part of the solution to the ever increasing cost of transmission is to generate more renewable energy in–state, as well as keep our existing renewables on–line. This would be one of many positive results of passing SB446 and SB365.
What can you do to help pass these bills into law? Easy! Contact your local legislators and senators. Ask them to go to Concord on September 13th and vote to override the Governor’s vetoes. It is as simple as that. And our energy future depends on it.
Robert E. King, P.E., of Keene is President of Ashuelot River Hydro Inc. and Sugar River Power LLC.