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ITC Works Best When Paired With Net Metering

Chalk it up to the spirit of the holiday season. Last month, in a rare display of forward-thinking, bipartisan leadership, the US Congress managed to pass an extension of the investment tax credit (ITC) — a critical renewable energy incentive — as part of the gargantuan omnibus spending bill that keeps our government running.

This is a huge boost to the nation’s rooftop solar industry. If the United States is serious about hitting the goals laid out at the Paris climate conference, our leaders need to support legislation and policies that keep us on the right path, and the ITC is paramount among them.

But there’s another piece to the sustainable solar puzzle, and that’s net energy metering (NEM). It’s the yin to the yang, the hip to the hop. Without the ITC, investing in rooftop solar is out of reach for many of us. Without NEM, solar wouldn’t make economic sense, which means it would still be out of reach. These two policies need to function in tandem to help us create a thriving solar market and make the shift to a truly green economy. And as of this writing, the future of net metering is threatened in at least two early battlegrounds of the 2016 presidential election…

In Nevada, rooftop solar industry leaders including SolarCity and Sunrun are collectively cutting thousands of jobs and effectively ceasing operations in the state because Nevada’s Public Utilities Commission eliminated net metering. This is about as strong an example you can find to prove that, without net metering, the rooftop solar market isn’t viable, even with the ITC. Silver State lawmakers are finding out very quickly that cutbacks on net metering and other solar-supportive polices have a direct impact on job creation and economic development. The lesson for other states: if you eliminate net metering, you can kiss rooftop solar goodbye.

And that brings us back to New Hampshire, where the legislature is facing what amounts to an arbitrary cap on the state’s net metering policy. With Eversource, the state’s largest utility, set to hit their NEM cap, solar advocates are hoping for a push this legislative session to raise the cap – or, in an ideal world, remove it altogether.

In order for New Hampshire ratepayers to take advantage of an ITC extension that somehow escaped the jaws of polarization and partisan rancor in Washington — winning support from both of the Granite State’s senators, Democrat Jeanne Shaheen and Republican Kelly Ayotte — state lawmakers need to step up and save net metering.

In the spirit of new year’s resolutions, let’s hope the legislature resolves to work with Governor Maggie Hassan to ensure that the solar energy movement can continue to grow and sustain itself into a cleaner future.

 
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is an independent media strategist based in San José, CA. You can read his many musings on Twitter @pjallen2.

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