To the Editor:
As a member of the Science Technology & Energy (STE) committee of the N.H. House of Representatives during the past three years, I have been dealing with issues surrounding energy generation, renewable and sustainable energy, and energy efficiency. As part of that process I became aware of the fact that as a rooftop solar owner I am eligible to be registered as a renewable energy generator, allowing me to collect revenues.
Each Megawatt Hour MWh of generating capacity qualifies the owner for one Renewable Energy Certificate [REC]. These RECs are sold at the New England quarterly auction. It turns out that when such an owner is not registered to generate RECs, that person’s utility can claim them as their own and get credit as part of the utilities REC obligation for N.H.’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).
Based on our state’s RPS targets (which are lower than other New England states), the utilities are obligated to purchase a specific number of RECs. But if they can get them for free, that means they need to purchase fewer at the auction, and that lack of demand will discourage the generation of more RECs driving down the price of RECs. It is important to remember that RECs represent clean, renewable energy that also reduces carbon emissions. Also, when our RPS goals are low, we are forgoing many new renewable energy jobs and the economic growth that accompanies them.
Like many other solar owners, I was told that signing up as a renewable energy generator was too bureaucratic and not worth the effort financially. Despite that, I decided to find out for myself, so that I could share the experience with others. While I did not find the process too complicated or time consuming, it is true that the financial reward was not much to boast about (approximately $130/year for a 6,000 watt installation).
Allow me to describe the process. To qualify as a registered renewable energy generator who can earn RECs to sell at auction, an owner must take three steps: 1) Register with an aggregator (a collector and seller), 2) Sign up with an auditor, and 3) Submit monthly solar meter readings to the auditor.
After consulting with my solar installer, I was directed to a solar energy aggregator (I was sent a contract and signed up with Knollwood Energy). My contract was for three years at a minimum price, with the aggregator collecting approximately $2.50 as a commission for each REC sold.
In order for the energy generated to qualify, an auditor must verify the actual energy generated. If an appropriate software is installed along with the solar installation (at a cost of approximately $300), the energy generated can be reported automatically. My system, however, was installed five years ago, without such software. So, my other option was to sign up with an auditor and report the reading of my solar meter monthly by email or using an online portal. I signed up with Paul Button as my auditor at a cost of $10. per year. That is all that is required of me.
As the result of being registered, every quarter I am sent a check from Knollwood Energy for the RECs sold at auction. My last payment for three months amounted to a net of $35. While this certainly is not a large amount of money, it is important to remember that auction prices vary, and that changes in the demand for RECs that could be triggered by changes in the RPS target of the New England states could push prices up.
But this small financial benefit is in addition to the much greater benefits enjoyed by solar rooftop owners. These owners are not just benefitting financially by reducing their monthly electricity bills, but they are also contributing to the increasing amount of New Hampshire generated renewable energy stock, which provides more energy independence and environmental benefits for our state including reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions.
Also, independent studies have found that solar energy generation saves money for all utility customers, not just the homeowner, by lowering the demand for long-distance transmission costs, especially when demand and solar energy generation are at their highest (hot summer days).
It is worth looking into solar energy generation whether on rooftops or stand-alone. The price of solar panels has been dropping annually and the efficiency of each panel has been increasing, while additionally, battery storage could soon be very affordable. In addition, there is still a federal energy credit and state credit available. The federal credit, which used to be 30 percent of system cost, is now only 26 percent but is being phased-out by December 31, 2021. The N.H. state rebate is $1,000, while funds last. This type of installation is not just for residential single-home owners, but in fact community solar installations are also becoming more popular.
If you have any questions, I would be glad to try and answer them.
Rep. Peter Somssich, Portsmouth, N.H. 03801; 436-5382
Thank you for this clear, comprehensive, and detailed look at this program.
As you say, the actual amount paid to homeowners isn’t the important thing. The cumulative effect is—and the sooner we get there, the better. We must say that we are shocked—shocked—to learn that there are electric utilities in this state employing underhanded tactics such as you have described. If the PR department of any such utility wishes to refute your statement, we will, of course, give them space to respond.