New Report: Solar Progress in New Hampshire Fueled by Strong Policies

Environment New Hampshire

MANCHESTER, NH Today, Environment New Hampshire Research & Policy Center released a new report, “Lighting the Way,” ranking states by their solar growth in 2013 and cumulatively. The report emphasizes that it is not availability of sunlight that makes states solar leaders, but the degree to which state and local governments have created effective public policy to help capture the virtually unlimited and pollution-free energy from the sun.

New Hampshire’s progress on solar has helped fuel a tripling of solar energy nationwide between 2011 and 2013. In 2013, solar capacity in New Hampshire grew 2 MW.                                

“Solar energy is emerging as a go-to energy option here in the Granite State and across the country,” said Ben McCormack, field organizer with Environment New Hampshire. “Thanks to the commitment of New Hampshire’s leaders, this pollution-free energy option is poised to play a major role in helping us meet the requirements of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan.

Solar in the United States increased more than 120-fold in the last 10 years.  In the first quarter of 2014, solar energy accounted for 74 percent of all the new electric generation capacity installed in the United States.  Ten states with the most solar installed per/capita are driving 89% of the solar installed in the U.S, while, representing only 26 percent of the population and 20 percent of the electricity consumption. 

And as the solar industry grows, the cost for installed solar decreases; making it more accessible. The price of installed solar systems fell 60 percent between the beginning of 2011 and the end of 2013.  Jobs in the solar industry are also growing rapidly. In 2013, there were more than 140,000 solar jobs in the U.S., including 860 in New Hampshire. 

Another major driver for solar energy is that it produces no pollution; including climate-altering carbon emissions.  According the report, solar power produces 96 percent less global warming pollution than coal-fired power plants over its entire life-cycle and 91 percent less global warming pollution than natural gas-fired power plants.

“Recent progress on solar shows that a strong commitment with the policies to back it up, make solar succeed,” said McCormack. “If we maintain momentum, well reap the tremendous benefits of cleaner air and less carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels.”

Several strong policies adopted by the top 10 solar states, like neighboring Massachusetts helped encourage homeowners and businesses to “go solar:”

  • 9 states have strong net metering policies. In nearly all of the leading states, consumers are compensated at the full retail rate for the excess electricity they supply to the grid.
  • 9 states have strong statewide interconnection policies. Good interconnection policies reduce the time and hassle required for individuals and companies to connect solar energy systems to the grid.
  • All 10 states have renewable electricity standards that set minimum requirements for the share of a utility’s electricity that must come from renewable sources, and 8 of them have solar carve-outs that set specific targets for solar or other forms of clean, distributed electricity.
  • 9 states allow for creative financing options such as third-party power purchase agreements, and 8 allow property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing.

Here in New Hampshire, solar progress is attributed to a number of programs; including: net metering, a renewable electricity standard, and PACE financing.

“Granite State officials deserve tremendous credit for recognizing the environmental and economic benefits of solar and taking action to make it a reality,” said McCormack. “As more people see the benefits of solar energy, we’re confident clean, limitless energy from the sun will be a growing part of New Hampshire’s plan to reduce pollution from power plants.”