Up until about 2 weeks ago customers of Liberty Utilities, who wished to install a solar PV system, were allowed to “net-meter” their production. Net metering is a policy that allows homeowners to receive credits for excess power generation that can be used to offset electric energy provided by the utility during a billing period, typically one month.
These credits, in the form of kWhs (kilowatt-hours), can also be stored, or banked, during months that have a net surplus and redeemed during subsequent months where consumption outweighs production. Net Metering is especially advantageous in New England latitudes as solar electric systems generate significantly more power during the long days of summer than the shorter days of winter Effectively, net metering allows the customer to use the utility as a storage bank to insure they receive 100% of the production from their system, either directly, or in the form of banked credits.
Over ten years ago the New Hampshire Legislature passed a law requiring every utility in the state to allow net metering, but only up to a cap of 50 megawatts for the state. Those 50 megawatts were shared between the various utilities according to their size. After each utility reaches their respective cap they no longer required to offer net metering to customers. Liberty, unexpectedly met their cap of 4.1 Megawatts, about two weeks ago as several large solar projects submitted their required interconnection paperwork. As there is the possibility that one or more of these projects could drop out, thus opening cap space, Liberty is accepting interconnection applications for customers who wish to be placed on a wait list.
Liberty is not the first state utility to reach its cap for net metering, New Hampshire Electric Co-op reached their cap several months ago. NHEC continues to allow customers to net meter their production but at a production to consumption ratio of 3:4. The previous program for both Liberty and NHEC was a 1:1 ratio. While the last few years have seen a rapid growth in the solar industry we need new legislature for it be sustained in the future. I would advise anyone who is concerned about the state of net metering and/or the solar industry as a whole to contact their state representative. Thanks for reading, and thanks to Ian Oxenham for contributing.