The solar future is coming, and New Hampshire has the unique opportunity to grow its economy and independence with the transition to renewable energy technology.
- Since 2006, prices of solar panels have dropped by more than 76%.
- In 2014, 32% of new electricity generation came from solar.
- Nearly 645,000 U.S. homes and businesses have gone solar, and in 2014 a new solar project was installed every 2.5 minutes.
Solar has the unique ability to revitalize our economy, improve consumer choice, and benefit all electricity ratepayers. Yet, the hitting of arbitrary caps on net metering (1% of all energy) puts New Hampshire’s rapidly growing solar industry at risk.
How Does Solar Support the Economy?
- New Hampshire’s solar industry employs over 600 people with more than 68 local companies represented, an industry that is poised to grow by leaps and bounds.
- Over 3,000 solar jobs are created each and every month in the US. This represents 3% of all professional and construction jobs created in the country.
- One in 78 new jobs created last year were solar jobs.
- In 2005, there were 15,000 solar jobs. There are now more than 200,000 solar jobs.
- There are 8,000 solar businesses in the U.S. All 50 states have employees in the industry.
- Rooftop solar creates well paying local jobs that cannot be outsourced.
How Does Solar Support Consumers?
For over 100 years, utility companies have enjoyed a monopoly on the sale of electricity. This model has resulted in the creation of a large, centralized power grid, which made sense 50 years ago, but no longer does in the 21st century. Rooftop solar power is one of the first major threats to the utility model of solar, by offering the consumer the ability to generate their own electricity on-site to power all aspects of modern life – appliances, computing, heating, cooling, even transportation (thanks to electric cars).
By investing in solar, a homeowner, business, nonprofit organization, or municipality, can lock in a rate for electricity for 25+ years, without being subject to increasing electricity rate hikes which are a reality of being connected with the electricity grid.
New Hampshire Net Metering: Up against a Wall
Net metering is the cornerstone of successful solar policy in the United States. Put simply, it is a protected right of a homeowner to install a grid-tied (no batteries) solar electric array on their home, and to use their own solar electricity to backfeed to the grid when they are producing more power than their home is currently consuming. The net metering agreement means that the exported electricity is credited to the producer’s account, as a 1:1 per kilowatt-hour credit, good for future electricity use. This allows the solar owner to have reliable grid electricity when the sun is not shining, and benefits the grid (and thus, all ratepayers) by exporting valuable peak electricity to the grid.
New Hampshire utilities are required under state statute to allow solar customers to net meter, but the cap on net metering was set to 50 megawatts – 1% of total generation – before other states demonstrated that much higher levels of solar and other distributed energy generation can be safely accommodated on the grid to the benefit of all ratepayers. As the cost of solar electricity production plunged, and traditional energy became more expensive, solar growth has lead to this cap far faster than anyone anticipated.
Net Metering: Good For New Hampshire
New Hampshire’s existing net metering policy, similar to that used in every strong solar market around the U.S., is successful because it is very customer-friendly and fair. It allows homeowners, businesses, and others who install solar power on their buildings and property to produce their own power in a fair and simple way.
- Net metering is the foundational policy for solar job growth around the U.S. No thriving solar industry exists in the U.S. without solar net metering.
- Net metering is simple and does not rely on action by future government bureaucracy or regulators.
- Solar industry and job growth are due in large part to the stable predictably of net metering, and its ease of use for customers.
- Net metering allows solar homeowners to lower or eliminate their electric bills when they are compensated in a simple, predictable way for the power they send back to the grid .
- All independent cost/benefit studies for rooftop solar – including the recent Value of Solar study conducted in Maine – show that solar net metering benefits all customers. A NH-specific Value of Solar study conducted by the Acadia Center determined that “that the value of solar to the grid – and ratepayers connected to the grid – ranges from 19-24 cents/kWh, with additional societal values of 6.7 cents/kWh.”