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NH Legislators Weigh Job-Killing Provision In Solar Bill

The dust hasn’t even settled on the New Hampshire primary, and Eversource Energy is once again feeling the bern. The Economic Times reports that the behemoth New England utility is being blasted by a US Senator (no, not that Senator) for outsourcing IT jobs in Connecticut and Massachusetts to nonimmigrant workers, taking advantage of loopholes in our H1-B visa policy.

At a time when job creation is among the top voter priorities and a pair of populists from opposite ends of the political spectrum just laid waste to their competition in the Granite State, it may be surprising to see a US firm so blatantly abandon American workers to increase their profit margins. But for Eversource, it’s just par for the course.

As previously discussed in this space, New Hampshire is nearing a tipping point in the battle for our energy future. The major utilities have hit the state’s arbitrary cap on net energy metering, but Eversource and others have shown virtually no interest in a stable transition for solar companies. Legislators are considering bills to address this, but the bills – SB 333 and HB 1116 – would only lead to job losses in a few months, as currently written.

Hanging in the balance are thousands of local jobs, millions of dollars in economic impact, and continued progress toward a more sustainable environment. Driving this point home, Concord-based SunRay Solar recently announced that it was forced to lay off one-third of its New Hampshire workforce and scale back operations due to the NEM cap.

Meanwhile, Eversource has been sending well-paying jobs — and long-term revenue — over the border. So it’s safe to say that American jobs are not Eversource’s primary motivator, no matter what Tuesday’s exit polls have to say.

But as mentioned above, there could be a light at the end of this tunnel, and an opportunity for New Hampshire lawmakers to do right by local workers and keep the clean energy economy moving. State legislators are currently working on SB 333 and HB 1116 to address the net metering cap. There’s just one catch….

The current versions may intend to do the right thing, but actually just perpetuate job losses if not fixed. The bills offer only a small increase in the net metering cap, which will be used up in a short amount of time. This would lead to even more disruption in the industry, and not the type of disruption that leads to innovation. Legislators can fix the bill by allowing net metering to continue while the state Public Utilities Commission conducts a fair and thorough evaluation of the program. The House Committee on Science, Technology and Energy has a hearing on HB 1116 this Friday, February 10th. Will they do the right thing and amend the bill to protect New Hampshire solar jobs?

If they care about job creation and appealing to voters in their state who have overwhelmingly voiced their support for a new way of doing business, New Hampshire’s elected leaders should amend the bills.

 
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Written By

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

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