These days, all eyes seem to be on New Hampshire. Yes, Iowa is the first to caucus for our next President, but New Hampshire is the first to vote. And the voters take this role quite seriously. As such, politicians and public officials at the local and national level pay a watchful mind to the weather vanes of public opinion in the Granite State.
So, you can bet that they’ve already seen the results of a new poll that shows about 80% of New Hampshire voters have a favorable opinion of solar as an energy source and almost 70% support net metering in their state. This is notable data because the state is bumping up against an arbitrary cap on net metering that, if not lifted, would cut solar growth in half. According to the poll, solar support is consistent across party lines – which is good news for Republican Chris Christie and Democrat Hillary Clinton, both of whom have spoken out in favor of net metering. Given the polling numbers, national candidates from all points of the political spectrum would be wise to follow suit.
Which brings us to the curious case of Nevada and its Governor, rumored Republican Vice Presidential hopeful Brian Sandoval, who recently endorsed a decision by his appointees to the state’s Public Utilities Commission to eliminate net metering. The new rules adopted by the PUC and Nevada legislature will stop thousands of Nevada homeowners from going solar, thereby stifling a burgeoning rooftop solar market that creates thousands of jobs across the state. Job losses have already been devastating, with several companies ceasing operations in Nevada and laying off or relocating their work forces.
Adding insult to injury, PUC staff admitted that they didn’t bother to analyze the full implications of the retroactive impact on existing customers, nor the influence their proposal would have on future renewable energy investment in Nevada. Solar industry leaders announced they are collectively cutting thousands of jobs and halting operations in Nevada because of the new regulations. Combine that with 16,000 solar customers who stand to pay more now that the new regulations are in effect, and Governor Sandoval’s re-election chances start to look a little thin – not to mention the likelihood of the eventual GOP nominee swiping left on his picture. Seems that if Sandoval wants to continue his crusade against public opinion by curtailing the future of solar in his state, he should start buffing up his resumé.
Meanwhile, back in New Hampshire, land of the “First in the Nation” primary, there may be a saving grace for solar workers and aspiring solar homeowners. The Granite State Senate held a hearing this week on legislation that opens the conversation about raising the cap. The current draft needs amendments – the solar industry requested the cap be lifted while the Public Utilities Commission conducts a fair and thorough review – but if done right, it has the potential to provide some certainty.
While many states – including Nevada, not to mention Mississippi, Maine, and Vermont – have studied net metering and found that it’s a financial benefit to all ratepayers, New Hampshire has yet to conduct that kind of analysis. It seems premature to put a cap on net metering before its effects have been studied. And according to the polls, capping solar is certainly an unpopular undertaking for lawmakers.