New Hampshire’s governor saved residents millions by vetoing solar subsidies

By Jason Hopkins

The governor of New Hampshire vetoed legislation that would have expanded net metering caps, claiming it saved his constituents millions in subsidies.

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu officially vetoed SB 446 on Tuesday. If signed into law, the bill would have raised the state’s net metering caps from its current 1-megawatt limit to 5 megawatts per customer. Under net metering rules in many states, residents who own solar panels are able to sell excess energy produced to power companies for more than its worth. Non-net metering customers typically subsidize this process by way of higher energy bills. There is also a risk for energy companies involved, who are mandated to purchase electricity from net metering producers with no guarantee that these producers will supply it.

Sununu claimed he was saving ratepayers between $5 and $10 million by blocking the legislation.

“These immense projects should use incentives already available and compete on their own merits. The businesses and working families of our state should not have to provide additional unjust taxation through higher electric bills,” Sununu said in a statement pertaining to his veto decision, also calling the bill a “handout to large scale energy developers.”

Sununu — the son of John Sununu, a former Republican governor of New Hampshire — entered office vowing to reduce the state’s rising energy costs, calling for a “paradigm shift” in policy. His office released an agenda in April that called for a pivot to nuclear and natural gas, and a veering away of subsidies to wind and solar companies.

The veto comes as a setback for solar companies that have largely benefited from net metering rules. Democratic supporters in the state legislature criticized the GOP governor’s move.

“It’s very hard to override a veto. I think we have enough votes in the Senate, but we may not have enough in the House,” said Democrat Sen. David Watters, a co-sponsor of SB 446 who wishes to override Sununu’s veto, according to Foster’s Daily Democrat.

The veto comes not longer after New Hampshire’s next door neighbor, Vermont, chose to reduce the amount of compensation net metering customers receive for their energy. Regulators in the state claimed a change needed to be made because ratepayers were getting charged too much.

Sununu also vetoed SB 365, legislation that would have required utilities to pay above-market rates for energy produced at biomass plants, ultimately costing New Hampshire ratepayers $25 million over three years.

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Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/David Monniaux

5 thoughts on “New Hampshire’s governor saved residents millions by vetoing solar subsidies

  1. Might just as well burn coal, and leave the trees in place to breathe the carbon dioxide and provide oxygen.

  2. Happy day. It’s refreshing to note that there are some folks left on the Connecticut River who have some common sense and guts.

    • Do you mean that all the ‘free energy’ promised by the eco-nuts isn’t really free? Oh wow, I’m so confused. And here I thought Bernie was right. Who’d of thought?

  3. Common sense, so close yet so far away from the poor folks in Vermont. That’s gotta be hard to swallow.

  4. Jason,
    Sununu also vetoed a feed in tariff bill for wood burning power plants in northern NH that would have cost NH ratepayers about $110 million over 3 years

    Article in the Valley News
    RE: Sununu Vetoes Energy Bills by Ethan DeWitt

    Governor Sununu made a very wise decision to veto the two energy bills.

    Northern New Hampshire wood burning power plants claim they are operating at a loss, because of low wholesale market prices. They want to receive about 10 cent per kilowatt-hour for their electricity, instead of about 5 cent, which is the annual average NE wholesale price. That would add about $110 million over three years to the electric bills of NH ratepayers.

    Vermont has the Ryegate wood burning plant, which gets about 50 percent of its trees from northern NH. Its efficiency is about 25%, but the efficiency from “forest to electric meter” is about 15.5 percent. That means the energy equivalent of about 5.5 out of 6.5 trees is wasted.

    Ryegate burns about 250,000 ton of trees per year, which has about 250,000 ton of CO2 emissions per year. In New England, it takes about 40 years for the CO2 to be reabsorbed by new tree growth; it is about 20 to 25 years in planted and fertilized forests in Georgia.

    That means, if a wood burning plant operates for 40 years and is then shutdown, it would take another 40 years before all its CO2 is absorbed.

    About 25% of the CO2 will never be absorbed, such as the CO2 emitted by diesel fuel to harvest, chip and transport the trees.

    A much better approach would be to have wood burning heating plants. The efficiency from “forest to heating appliance” is about 62.5 percent. That means the energy equivalent of about 0.6 out of 1.6 trees is wasted.

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