New Hampshire Net Metering Expansion in Limbo

Published May 21, 2020

The New Hampshire State Senate has overridden a February veto by Governor Chris Sununu (R) of SB 159, a bill to expand net metering in the Granite State, leaving open the possibility the bill could still become law once it receives a roll call vote in the House of Representatives. This is the third consecutive year Gov. Sununu has vetoed legislation looking to expand net metering.

SB 159 would expand the state’s net metering program cap from 1 megawatt to 5 megawatts. The Senate, with a Democratic majority, overrode Sununu’s veto by a vote of 17 in favor of the veto override to seven in favor or sustaining the veto, on March 5.

Subsidizing Distributed Generation

Net metering allows, households with their own electricity generation source, also called “distributed generation,” most often roof top solar panels, to sell the excess electricity they generate back to their utility at retail, rather than wholesale, prices. Because managing distributed generation systems add costs to the system and utilities are forced to pay more for the power delivered from them than they do for power from other generation sources, ratepayers subsidize distributed generation systems and pay more for their electricity than they otherwise would have.

Research shows ratepayers in states with net-metering mandates pay more for electricity than ratepayers is states lacking net-metering laws, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports New Hampshire’s electricity prices are the fourth highest in the nation.

Burdening Taxpayers, Ratepayers

Increasing New Hampshire’s net-metering mandate will burden the state’s taxpayers and ratepayers, said Sununu in his message vetoing the bill.

“Senate Bill 159 is nearly identical to two bills that were vetoed and sustained in previous legislative sessions,” Sununu wrote in his veto message. “The proponents of this bill claim to have made a compromise when it fact it still would result in hundreds of millions of dollars in higher electric rates for our citizens.

“These costs would be felt most by low-income families and seniors in New Hampshire, and that is not acceptable,” said Sununu.

SB 159 remains in legislative limbo for time being, as New Hampshire’s House has yet to consider overriding Sununu’s veto and the state’s General Court has suspended legislative activity “until further notice” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tim Benson ([email protected]) is a policy analyst at The Heartland Institute.