Utility regulators have issued a long-awaited order with significant implications for the growing solar industry in New Hampshire and financial rewards for property owners who install solar panels.
The order lifts all existing limits on so-called net metering, the process by which people who own solar panels sell their surplus electricity back into the grid as an offset to their electric bills.
In a 74-page ruling handed down late Friday afternoon, the Public Utilities Commission settled an issue that has been in dispute for several years, as utility interests and solar industry advocates squared off over the proper way to compensate people who own solar panels without imposing unfair costs on those who don’t.
“The order reflects a fair compromise and will certainly protect all ratepayers while allowing consumers to continue to choose to install solar and get reasonably compensated for the value of their energy,” said Kate Epsen, executive director of the N.H. Clean Tech Council and Solar Energy Association.
“It also protects the 1,000-plus jobs in the industry and opens up new opportunities for municipalities, utilities and businesses,” she said.
Many of the states with net metering laws have no limit on how many megawatts can be accommodated, and that’s where solar advocates wanted to see New Hampshire go. They won that battle, at least for now. The PUC order lifts the current 100-megawatt limit on solar power eligible for net metering, which was put into place last year.
The state managed for years with a 50-megawatt limit, until the solar installations took off in 2015, and the limit was quickly exhausted. In 2016, lawmakers raised the limit to 75 megawatts to give regulators time to figure out a long-term solution, and that was soon raised to 100 megawatts.
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