Just a few years ago New Hampshire was lagging far behind on solar friendly policy. Thankfully that’s started to change. A strong Renewables Portfolio Standard was passed in 2007, and a statewide rebate program offers a big chunk of change back on the purchase of a new solar power system. That’s pretty solid progress. It’s not enough progress, however, to rest on our laurels. From the White Mountain National Forest, to the northern reaches of the Appalachian Trail, we have a lot of beautiful places to protect here, and we could be doing more to do so.
New Hampshire’s Renewable Portfolio Standard
A Renewables Portfolio Standard (“RPS”) is a law or other piece of regulation that mandates that a certain percentage of at state’s energy production comes from renewable resources by specified target dates. A strong RPS is important because it forces utility companies to promote conversion to renewable energy. That generally means free money for you in the form of solar power rebates and performance payments when you switch to solar.
If you keep up with renewable energy policy, you already know that some states have RPS goals as high as 30%, even 40% production in the not-that-distant future. We’re not quite at that level here, but our RPS is pretty strong! New Hampshire’s RPS, first passed in 2007, mandates that utilities (excluding municipal electric companies) generate 23.8% of total electricity output from renewable sources by 2025. That figure also includes a specific carve out of 0.3% generation from solar power installed after January 1, 2006.
Solar Performance Payments in New Hampshire
New Hampshire does not offer any performance incentives for solar power. Both the utilities and the legislature are missing a prime opportunity for a simple and direct way to encourage enough renewable energy to meet those RPS goals.
New Hampshire Solar Power Rebates
The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (“PUC”) runs a statewide solar power rebate program that offers $1,250 per kilowatt (“kw”), up to $4,500 or 50% of project costs, whichever is less. All residential systems under 5kw are eligible for the rebate. Funding for the PUC solar panel rebate program is temporarily exhausted, but new applicants are still being accepted. New applicants will be placed on a waiting list, and will receive new funding as it becomes available on a first-come first-serve basis. What’s that mean for you? Only that you want to get on that list ASAP to save nearly five thousand bucks on your solar power system!
Solar Tax Exemptions in New Hampshire
When you install a solar power system your home goes up in value by twenty times your annual electricity savings. New Hampshire allows cities and towns to exempt that increase in home value from all associated property taxes. More than 80 cities and towns in New Hampshire have adopted a property tax exemption for one or more of these energy sources. You can get a full list of the cities and towns that have adopted a property tax exemption for solar power here. Don’t fret the details; the expert solar installers we partner with will walk you through all the details.
Utility Prices in New Hampshire
New Hampshire pays an average of 16.35 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity. That’s well above the national average of 11.43 cents/kwh. We know you hate how high your electric bill is every month, but that’s only until you install your new solar power system! High electricity prices means big savings when you’re producing our own electricity.
Even with the comparatively high prices here, we still think electricity is too cheap. We keep the price of electricity down in the short term by burning dangerous amounts of fossil fuels. But as you already know, there are huge long-term costs associated with those short-term savings. When those long-term costs start to really kick in, electricity prices are going to rise and rise (and rise). And you’ll be saving, and saving, and saving with all that cheap, earth-friendly solar power you’re producing.
New Hampshire Net Metering and Interconnection
Net Metering requires your utility to monitor how much energy your solar power system produces and how much energy you actually consume, and make sure you get credit for the surplus. The New Hampshire PUC has adopted uniform rules that require all utilities to offer net metering to residential customers. Surplus energy will be applied as a credit to the next month’s bill, and credits can be carried over indefinitely. In addition, customers on the default service plan may elect to receive annual payments for net metering surplus, if the surplus exceeds 600 kilowatt-hours (“kwh”).
That’s pretty strong. The only improvements we’d like to see for residential customers are a safe-harbor provision that specifically forbids utilities from adding charges and fees to the net metering process. Note that we gave net metering in New Hampshire a “B” overall, because of grid capacity and system size limits that may prevent larger (i.e. commercial and industrial) customers from meeting all of their on-site generation needs. These limitations should not affect you and your residential solar power system.
Interconnection in New Hampshire is more of a mixed bag. Utilities may not require customer-generators to perform additional tests, or pay for additional interconnection-related charges. Insurance is not required. That’s great. What’s not so hot is the lack of differentiation between different system sized. The process for your small residential system is the same as the process for a giant industrial system. That’s needlessly complex and time-consuming, and legislators are missing a tremendously simple opportunity to make the conversion to solar power easier for you.
5kW Example Return on Investment in New Hampshire
What do all the numbers add up to for you? Let’s have a look:
Installing a typical 5kW solar system should start at about $25,000. That number may seem big, but it’s going to go down fast.
- Let’s start with the state solar power rebate. You’re getting $4,500 off up-front, for a new price of $20,500.
- Next let’s take off the federal solar tax credit. You get a whopping 30% off of your out of pocket costs (after the state solar rebate). Subtract $6,150, for a new price of $14,350.
- Finally we subtract your first year’s energy savings, which we estimate to be about $956. That brings your final cost after the first year to 13,394, a discount of nearly 12,000 already!
- With a conservative estimate for the future rise of electricity prices, you can expect your new solar power system to pay for itself in about 11 years. After that you’ll start turning a profit, about $32,000 worth over the life of your system!
- In addition to all the extra money in your pocket every month, you also increased your home value by nearly $19,000.
- Just in case you forgot, you’re doing a whole bunch of good for the earth as well. 103 trees worth of good in fact. The fossil fuels you’re not burning for electricity is like planting all those trees every year that your solar power system is churning out all that clean power.
These numbers are estimates. Your home is unique and how much power you generate and how much money you save depends on that uniqueness. The best way to find out how much cash switching to solar can save you is to get one of our free quotes, and an expert installer in your area can draw up a home-specific estimate for you. Your quote is 100% free (yes, that’s right, 100% free) and you can get as many of them as that smart shopper in you desires!
New Hampshire Solar Consensus
Not too shabby at all, but we definitely still have room for improvement here. The strong RPS and the adequate solar power rebate program are a solid start, but we’d really like to see an expanded rebate or a performance incentive program to help push the payback timeframe under 10 years (at the least) before we can give New Hampshire top marks. For new we’ll have to settle for a solid but not spectacular “B” here.