In addition to the distinction of hosting the first-in-the-nation primary, New Hampshire is also one of the fastest-growing solar energy markets in America. In fact, its 2014 growth rate ranked third in the country for added solar capacity per person.
The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission is in the process of determining how the state’s solar industry will develop as it decides whether or not to maintain its net metering program. This decision essentially comes down to consumer choice and whether the state will prop up monopoly utilities or continue to move into a sustainable energy future.
Well, consumers have spoken, and not surprisingly, they want New Hampshire to maintain net metering and the right to self-generate electricity. Take the latest video from “The Super Secret Project,” a New England–based web comedy troupe that’s been featured on The Today Show, Funny or Die, and The Tonight Show, among others. Their videos, including “Granite State of Mind,” “Realistic Love Song,” and “Ode to Zach Braff,” have more than 7 million views on YouTube. Now, they’re taking on New Hampshire utilities with their latest video, “My Roof, My Rights.”
The good news for solar advocates — not to mention our economy and environment — is that Governor Maggie Hassan has prominently supported solar net metering and helped to lift the state cap from 50 MW to 100 MW during the last legislative session.
The bad news — as you might expect — is that the utility industry is digging in to halt solar growth, flooding the state capitol with lobbyists. Their talking points are being amplified by national organizations like the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) and the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), which purport to represent the public interest but in truth are funded primarily by monopoly utilities.
During the last New Hampshire legislative session, EEI advocated against full retail net metering. And just last month, CEA Executive Vice President Michael Whatley published an opinion piece in the New Hampshire Union Leader also arguing against net metering. So it shouldn’t shock anyone to learn that CEA — which is based out of Houston — has connections to DC energy lobbyists. And they’re ready to do whatever it takes to get a win for their clients.
Case in point: Two years ago, CEA was caught submitting a fraudulent petition in two energy rate cases in Wisconsin. The cases got national media exposure because of proposed punitive fees on solar customers. CEA used a campaign of misinformation that duped consumers into adding their names to a petition that essentially advocated for anti-solar proposals from the utilities. A report by the Madison news outlet Cap Times found that many alleged signers had received a phone call but had not actually signed the petition, or that they had been unclear as to what the petition actually said. Thankfully, the petition was ultimately thrown out.
Despite that setback, CEA is at it again in New Hampshire, trying to curtail net metering and eliminate consumer choice. But consumers are fighting back.
Thousands of New Hampshire advocates, from The Super Secret Project, to homeowners who want to protect their right to self-generate, want the Utilities Commission to defend solar energy over the long haul. Makes perfect sense in a state whose motto is “Live Free or Die.”