Excerpt from “Hitting the cap: Industry, utilities, lawmakers debate changes to renewable energy net metering limits,” by Bob Sanders, published in NH Business Review.
Andrew Kellar, president of Stratham-based NHSolarGarden, remembers vividly when the net metering cap was reached in Liberty Utilities’ service areas.
It was last July 30, at a NH Public Utilities Commission prehearing, called to standardize requirements to get in the queue for solar energy projects eligible for the net metering program. In the case of Liberty, which had about a megawatt of capacity left, the payment of an interconnection impact fee would be sufficient.
NHSolarGarden had designed a 1.3-megawatt solar array for a Salem landfill owned by a private recycling company, so Kellar whipped out his checkbook and wrote a $13,000 check right on the spot, though construction of the project wouldn’t start until the spring. But the cap was reached.
That agreement, however, put 17 of the 68 homeowners and businesses that the Enfield Energy Emporium had signed up for solar rooftops in the Upper Valley in the shadow of uncertainty.
“When Liberty hit their cap, which basically crashed the program, it left many installers and homeowners confused and disappointed,” testified the Enfield Energy Emporium’s Kim Quirk at an NH Senate hearing in January.
Quirk and Kellar both want to lift the current 50-megawatt cap that has put a lid on what had been explosive growth of the state’s solar industry. Lawmakers appear to be ready to do that somewhat, but at deadline, the cap is still there and has been reached by every utility except for Until.
Lawmakers created that cap, which is apportioned among the state’s four electric utilities, some 17 years ago – a time when a limit no one thought it would be reached. It took 13 years before the state produced its first five megawatts through solar energy, two years for the next five, one year for next, six months to add 10 more and by the by the end of 2015, 30 megawatts have already been put into service.