The Jan. 5 article regarding Cheshire County’s new net-metering arrangement (“Cheshire County joins group net-metering program”) heralds good news for the county, but does contain some misconceptions. The county should be commended for using New Hampshire’s net-metering program to reduce its energy costs and take advantage of zero carbon, small hydroelectric power.
In the interest of accuracy, however, let me offer the following:
1) Eversource is not “compelled” to buy the hydropower because of net metering. Federal legislation dating from 1978 requires utilities to buy renewable energy from small generators;
2) All energy projects supplying New Hampshire towns and businesses via net metering must be interconnected in New Hampshire;
3) Net metering does not provide small hydro an above-market rate. In 2021, a typical net-metered hydro project took home less than 7 cents/kilowatt hour. The average default energy-only rate (look at your electric bill) was closer to 8 cents (and it is now climbing). Most importantly, the rate you paid overall for your electricity was over 17 cents.
The presence of small hydro and other renewable power plants on the local grid provides a number of benefits which don’t find their way into the standard “market” rate. These include reduction of transmission and distribution losses, reduction of peak demand, zero carbon emissions and the retention of your energy dollars in the local economy. This all comes in addition to saving taxpayers money, when, for example, the county uses net metering and its electricity costs go down.
(This writer is president of Ashuelot River Hydro Inc.)