New study examines the cost vs. benefit of more solar

Sep. 29—CONCORD — Subsidies for those using solar power slightly increase costs for other ratepayers, but a new state Department of Energy study finds they bring a major benefit by reducing stress on the traditional electric power grid and reducing the need to buy fossil fuel on the open market.

This long-anticipated study addresses the ongoing debate politically and legislatively about whether solar panels on individual home roofs and alongside buildings increase or actually lower energy rates for all other customers.

These conclusions could affect the debate over whether to change net metering, rates that renewable energy users get for generating their own power, some of which is sold to the power grid.

Dunsky, a Montreal energy consultant, and Power Advisory of Massachusetts did the survey.

A major finding was that through 2035 the energy for these alternative energy customers would raise the electric rates of others by about 1%.

In turn, over that same period, the bills for solar customers will be 92% lower.

The study concluded that solar users were getting 40% lower value from their energy under current net metering rates than the actual benefit they provide to the power grid.

This reverse cost benefit equaled $11 million 2021.

PUC to examine net metering rates

Dan Weeks of Revision Energy said the study should help guide the state Public Utilities Commission as it considers next year whether to change the net metering rates paid to solar generators.

"This long-anticipated report confirms what numerous independent studies have found over the years: adding more solar energy to the electric grid benefits the public at large," Weeks said.

"Even under the report's highly conservative future assumptions, it finds that more solar reduces electric bills for the average ratepayer while adding local jobs and delivering huge public health and environmental benefits to all Granite Staters."

If solar power rates are increased, Weeks said this would lead to a dramatic increase in individuals and customers choosing this energy source.

Gov. Chris Sununu has vetoed several bills in past years that would allow individuals and commercial companies to have larger net metering projects.

Sununu said the high cost of energy in New Hampshire remains one of the biggest barriers to greater economic growth and he remained opposed to any further net metering changes.

"I've vetoed those crazy ideas before and if the Democrats try to bring them back in the future, I'll veto them again," Sununu said Thursday.