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New Hampshire Taking Strides in Solar Amidst Policy Uncertainty

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Although New Hampshire lags far behind other New England states in solar policy, it has seen an explosion in the number of solar installers vying to lead the state’s clean energy transition. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), New Hampshire is home to some 85 solar companies that employ 1,184 people, spurring $155 million in solar investment in the state.

The emergence of a clean energy industry in New Hampshire corresponds to a rapid rise in the number of homeowners and businesses that have chosen to go solar instead of paying for imported fossil fuels.

Approximately 9,000 New Hampshire homes are currently powered by the sun, according to SEIA, and more than half of the 57 megawatts of total solar electricity in New Hampshire was installed last year alone.

According to ReVision Energy, the state’s largest solar company, the rapid rise in solar adoption is due to increasing awareness of the costs of climate change as well as homeowners’ desire to keep their energy dollars in state and save money in the process.

“The cost for solar panels has dropped by 64% over the past 5 years, making it practical for Granite Staters to invest in a technology that comes with a 25-year warranty and proven ability to perform well in our region,” said Phil Coupe, co-founder of ReVision Energy. “In fact, New Hampshire’s solar resource is equal to that of Houston, TX and only 10% less than Florida.”

Nevertheless, industry leaders say the decision by the state Public Utilities Commission to artificially reduce the value of solar electricity exported onto the grid through net metering – contrary to independent analyses that find solar electricity benefits all ratepayers by supplying maximum power at periods of peak demand – could hamper future growth.

Even more disconcerting to the solar industry is the current uncertainty around the future of state rebates for solar projects, which serve to level the playing field with heavily-subsidized fossil fuels and enable lower-income homeowners and nonprofits to reap the long-term rewards of a solar investment through lower up-front costs. With only 0.32% of New Hampshire’s electricity mix currently coming from solar, such modest incentives are considered by the industry to be an important ingredient in the state’s clean energy transition.

By contrast, Massachusetts currently generates roughly 6 percent of its electricity from solar with 30 times as many megawatts (1,592) of total solar installed, according to SEIA.

Uncertainties aside, ReVision Energy says it is not letting up on its goal of a 100% clean energy future for New Hampshire and the region. In addition to full-service solar installations, the company provides hyper-efficient heat pumps, electric vehicle charging, battery storage, and complementary technologies to support a solar-powered lifestyle. It was recently named #1 in New England by Solar Power World Magazine.

“The technology has arrived and the only question that remains is us whether policymakers will allow the burgeoning clean tech industry to truly take off in our state by leveling the playing field with heavily-subsidized fossil fuels,” said Dan Weeks, Director of Market Development at ReVision Energy. “The science is clear that solar and wind are now the cheapest sources of electricity on earth and essential for a sustainable future.”

Van Ostern Pushes For Expanding Renewable Energy While Sununu Continues To Deny Science

Colin Van Ostern visits the new solar array in Durham

Colin Van Ostern visits the new solar array in Durham (April 2016)

Van Ostern Contrasts His Record Of Supporting Solar And Renewable Energy Projects

With Chris Sununu’s Steadfast Opposition To Renewable Energy Jobs

DURHAM, N.H. – Today, Colin Van Ostern, Democratic nominee for Governor, toured the Oyster River Forest Solar Array in Lee, where he discussed his plans to create renewable energy jobs and protect New Hampshire’s natural resources as Governor. On the Executive Council, Van Ostern successfully fought to secure funding for the second largest renewable energy project in New Hampshire that’s now powering the town of Durham’s municipal buildings. Van Ostern’s opponent, Chris Sununu voted against this project and has consistently opposed other renewable energy projects across New Hampshire.

“Solar and renewable energy projects are critical to boosting our clean tech economy, lowering energy costs, protecting our natural resources, and creating good-paying jobs,” said Colin Van Ostern, Democratic nominee for Governor. “I’m proud to have helped lead the charge to expand renewable energy projects in communities across New Hampshire. Chris Sununu’s repeated opposition to solar and renewable energy projects throughout New Hampshire is threatening to hold our economy back.”

Colin Van Ostern is committed to supporting renewable energy technologies that have strong local support to create good-paying jobs, lower energy costs for New Hampshire residents, and make the state less dependent on fossil fuels. Working on the state Executive Council, he has successfully championed energy efficiency initiatives and solar and renewable energy projects in Manchester, Peterborough, Plymouth, Durham, and Berlin, all of which had the support of local communities.

Chris Sununu has consistently opposed solar and renewable energy projects on the Executive Council while taking thousands of dollars in contributions from the oil and gas industry. Just two weeks ago, he continued to openly question the science of climate change in a Republican primary debate on WMUR.

Between 2013 and 2016, Sununu voted ten times against solar and wind projects in New Hampshire—six times, he was the only councilor to vote no.

sununu-recorded-votes

  • In October 2014, Sununu was the only councilor to oppose $4.1 million in financing for a five-turbine wind farm project in Berlin.
  • In January 2014, Sununu voted against $1.2 million in funding for a solar project in Peterborough—and was again the lone dissenting vote.
  • In December 2013, Sununu was the only councilor to vote against a $1 million grant to install and operate a wind energy project on Jericho Mountain.
  • In July 2015, Sununu successfully killed $998k in funding which would have helped Manchester Solar LLC to install, own, and operate a solar photovoltaic electric generation system.
  • In July 2015, Sununu voted no on authorization of $581k in funding to Milton Town Solar LLC, to Install a Solar Photovoltaic System at the Closed Milton Town Landfill.
  • In June 2015, Sununu voted against awarding $502k in funding for Durham Solar P2 to continue their Innovation Research Center.
  • In March 2014, Sununu was the only councilor to vote no on retroactively amending funding for the City of Manchester to realign the Solar Photovoltaic Facilities, by increasing the amount by $501k.
  • In January 2016, Sununu voted against $450k in funding for two solar projects in Portsmouth.
  • In December 2013, Sununu was the only councilor to vote against $318k in funding to install a solar photovoltaic system at Plymouth Village Water and Sewer.
  • In December 2013, Sununu was the only councilor to vote against $175k in funding to install, operate, and monitor a Solar Photovoltaic System at Franklin Pierce University.

Furthermore, on multiple occasions, Chris Sununu has denied climate change and has stated his belief that if climate change is real, that it is not man-made.

  • In an interview with Concord News Radio earlier this year, Sununu said that “the jury is still out” on climate change.
  • After speaking with Sununu ahead of the Republican presidential primary, New York Times editorial writer Lawrence Downes noted Sununu’s “baffling, classically Republican insistence that there is no scientific consensus about the reality of human-caused climate change.”
  • Less than two weeks ago, Sununu said “no one knows for sure” if climate change is man-made.

“What state is this?” asked NHDP Press Secretary Evan Lukaske. “The Republican nominee for governor, Chris Sununu, doesn’t believe in climate change and has waged a crusade against renewable energy projects that would create good-paying jobs and help protect New Hampshire’s natural resources. His Republican ideology fits Mississippi better than it does New Hampshire.”

Dan Weeks lauds Durham solar array and urges Executive Council to support clean energy economy

Dan Weeks Durham SolarDURHAM, NH – Executive Council candidate and government reformer Dan Weeks attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the $2.1 million, 651-kilowatt Oyster River Forest Solar Array, the second-largest solar project in New Hampshire. Weeks praised the project developers, ReVision Energy, IGS Solar, and the Town of Durham, and urged his opponent to allow New Hampshire municipalities to follow Durham’s lead in building the state’s clean energy economy.

Weeks is challenging District 5 incumbent Councilor David Wheeler, who opposed the Durham array and has consistently voted to block municipal solar systems as recommended to the Executive Council by the Public Utilities Commission. Funding for such projects is provided, in part, by the NH Renewable Energy Fund, which receives payments from private utilities for non-compliance with the state’s clean energy requirements. No tax funds are included in the fund.

“New Hampshire is on the verge of a new clean energy economy, with the potential to generate thousands more middle-class jobs and put our environment on a more sustainable course for future generations,” Weeks said. “It is time for Executive Councilors to stop their senseless denial of climate science and allow the New Hampshire Renewable Energy Fund to do its job.”

The Oyster River Solar Array was made possible through a $500,000 grant from the Renewable Energy Fund after Republican Councilor Joe Kenney switched sides and joined the two Democratic Councilors in approving the project last June. Councilor David Wheeler, who is backed by the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity which rejects climate science, was one of two Republicans who voted to block the project. Republican Councilors have succeeded in blocking similar municipal clean energy projects in the past.

According to project developer Revision Energy, the Durham solar field will generate over 850,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year for an annual CO2 reduction of nearly 1.5 million pounds. With an estimated payback period of 5-10 years and minimal maintenance, the system is expected to generate free energy and considerable cost savings for the town of Durham for the next 30-50 years.

New Hampshire currently ranks near the bottom of northeastern states in adoption of renewable energy and second highest in per-capita carbon consumption, despite the fact that the state’s nascent renewable energy sector has already seen over 70 startup companies and thousands of jobs created to meet the burgeoning demand from residential and business consumers. Weeks and his family generate the bulk of their energy from a 17-panel rooftop solar array.

“As New Hampshire’s highest elected body charged with approving state spending and appointments, it is the Executive Council’s job to make smart investments for the good of future generations,” Weeks concluded. “I respectfully urge my opponent to rethink his ideological opposition to renewables and support the clean energy economy for the good of our citizens and the natural environment.”

NEXTGEN Climate Is Pushing Climate Change To The Forefront Of Our Political Discussions

Nextgen 2

NextGen Climate is an organization dedicated to bringing climate change to the forefront of American politics. In 2016, that means playing a big role in the upcoming election by holding politicians accountable to lay out their plans to address the risks of climate change and accelerate our country’s transition to a clean energy economy.  Voters across the country and right here in New Hampshire are eager for leaders who are ready to solve this problem—and we‘re organizing across our state to demand solutions.   

state_lead-horizontal_R-01Climate change threatens to have devastating impacts on our economy. Left unaddressed, climate change will reduce U.S. GDP 5 percent by 2050. In New Hampshire, we’re already experiencing the impacts firsthand. Our state has seen a 70 percent uptick in severe weather events in the last 15 years and warmer temperatures are already starting to dampen the tourism industry that the Granite State’s economy depends on. The moose population is greatly harmed by the heightened presence of moose ticks, the quality and availability of seafood and maple syrup is suffering, and the shorter winters are shrinking New Hampshire’s ski season. 

But the good news is that we have the solutions at hand clean energy, which will not only help solve climate change, but will also create jobs and strengthen our economy . Transitioning to clean energy is a common sense approach to create jobs and support broad-based economic growth that will benefit American families. We’re asking our leaders to lay out their plans to achieve 50 percent clean energy by 2030 and 100 percent clean energy by 2050. And a new report commissioned by NextGen Climate America concludes that accelerating the transition to a clean energy economy will create over a million jobs by 2030 and up to two million jobs by 2050—creating new opportunities for Americans across the country. 

This is tremendous progress by any standard, but to make this type of progress while also preventing climate disaster and promoting prosperity for all Americans? That’s a remarkable opportunity.

Nextgen 3NextGen Climate intends to take advantage of that opportunity, using the election cycle as a platform to educate voters on the importance of this issue—ensuring that Granite Staters don’t simply act on climate, but that they also vote on climate. 

Americans of every political stripe are ready for the transition to a clean energy economy. Fifty-four percent Republican voters across the country are more likely to vote for a candidate that supports #50by30, and 69 percent of swing-state voters agree. And that number jumps to 74% among young voters, who will be disproportionately affected by climate change.

A majority of Americans from both parties want to see us transition to a clean energy economy and the technology to do so is available and affordable. We have never been so desperately in need of action on climate change, but we have also never been so prepared to act. NextGen Climate is determined to make this tremendous potential a reality by educating and empowering Granite Staters and electing public officials who listen to voters and lay out their concrete plans to help build a stronger, cleaner future for our kids. 


Editors note: This is the first of many posts to come from NextGen-NH.  Starting today, NextGen-NH will begin posting a weekly editorial on the NH Labor News every Thursday. 

Gubernatorial Candidate Colin Van Ostern Asks Lawmakers To Fix NH’s Solar Cap Within 90 Days

Colin Van OsternCONCORD, NH – Colin Van Ostern today asked lawmakers and Governor Hassan to lift a state solar energy cap within 90 days, warning of possible damage to New Hampshire’s surging clean tech economy if the cap is not removed.  The 1998 cap limits home owners, small businesses, and towns from continuing “net metering,” in which solar owners can predictably sell energy back to the state’s power grid when producing more energy than consumed onsite. In some cases New Hampshire’s 50 MW net metering cap is close to being reached or already exceeded, making financing and development difficult and unpredictable for future NH solar projects.

Van Ostern also emailed thousands of New Hampshire voters Monday asking them to join him in adding their name to the request for lawmakers, available online at http://vanostern.com/endthenhsolarcap

“Solar energy projects in New Hampshire are critical for growing good jobs, boosting our clean tech economy, limiting future energy costs, and protecting our state’s beautiful environment and unique quality of life.  We shouldn’t be capping the full potential of our clean tech economy; we should be accelerating it. The time to end the NH solar cap is long overdue,” said Van Ostern, who has been a champion of solar and renewable energy projects while serving on the state’s five-member Executive Council.

“I’m glad that legislative leaders are working hard on a bipartisan fix to this barrier to economic growth, and as they reach resolution on the policy it’s critical we have a short timeline for execution. If they need a special legislative session to do that, I would support it – and if they are unable to resolve this in time for a special session before the holidays, this should be one of several time-sensitive priorities resolved at the beginning of the legislative session in January.”

Solar demand among New Hampshire residents and businesses is at a record high, and New Hampshire’s clean energy jobs pay annual wages 50% higher than the state’s average wage.  Last year, seven U.S. states expanded their net metering programs. [http://www.nhcleantechcouncil.org]. Solar net metering reduces the need to upgrade transmission lines and power stations, in the absence of cost-competitive energy storage systems.

Van Ostern today encouraged legislative leaders to implement a fix to the state’s existing solar cap which:

  1. Ensures a solution before the end of January 2016
  2. Lays the groundwork for a long-term, equitable solution, not just a short-term fix.
  3. Encourages future development of solar and renewable energy in the state

Colin Van Ostern has championed additional development of solar and renewable energy in his work on the state Executive Council as well as in his 2016 campaign for Governor. On the Council, Van Ostern has been an advocate for numerous solar energy projects including projects approved in divided votes for community projects in Durham, Manchester, and Peterborough, as well as one project narrowly defeated in Manchester. Van Ostern included a business leader from an NH solar energy company in the roundtable discussion at SilverTech in Manchester where he announced his campaign for Governor in early October 2015, saying at his campaign announcement:

“I see a future for our state that is accelerated by passenger rail from Boston to Manchester, brightened by solar panels, and supported by growing small businesses…a future where we keep taxes low and bring forward new plans and ideas to attract and keep more young people, young families, startups and growing businesses here in our state.”

 

Colin Van Ostern is running for Governor of New Hampshire in 2016, and works as a business leader at Southern New Hampshire University and also as a publicly-elected Executive Councilor, representing forty-nine towns from Cheshire to Strafford County.  He lives in Concord with his wife and two sons. For more info, visit www.vanostern.com.

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