CONCORD, NH — New Hampshire's governor vetoed a controversial net metering bill on Monday that he said would cost ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars in higher electric bills. Gov. Chris Sununu, R-NH, vetoed HB 365 calling it "a regressive cost burden on citizens" that would benefit "large-scale solar developers while hurting all ratepayers," including the elderly and those on fixed income. Sununu said he was supportive of advancing renewable energy in New Hampshire but not in a way that would force some that could be harmed to subsidize others who would reap the most reward.
"We should not allow our good intentions to mask a bad policy," he stated in a veto message. "Rather, New Hampshire should focus on advancing policies that limit the harm to our ratepayers and target the benefits of renewable energy to those most in need."
Opponents of HB 365 stated that it would raise the state's already very high electric bills by millions of dollars by compensating solar, biomass, and hydro power producers at higher rates than other power companies. Supporters though liked the idea because it would allow businesses and governments to self-generate power at an increased amount – 5 megawatts compared to 1 – and set aside credits for excess power contributed to the grid. They also believed that it would lower property taxes.
Supporters of the bill also pointed to the potential for new jobs and investments due to the sourcing of the energy being more local than out-of-state power sources while opponents stated that raising preferred rates and passing the costs onto consumers would have a corrupting influence on the energy marketplace.
Sununu said while some municipalities believed the bill would help them reduce property taxes, any tax savings from a net-metered solar project "are cost-shifted to ratepayers across New Hampshire."
The governor vetoed a similar bill in 2018.
The House approved HB 365 by a more than two-to-one margin while a similar bill in the state Senate was approved by a 24-0 vote, meaning a veto override may be eminent.
State Sen. Dan Feltes, D-Concord, called Sununu's veto "a big win for out-of-state fossil fuel interests and a big loss for New Hampshire families, businesses, and communities."
Senate Bills Signed
While vetoing HB 365, the governor did sign two Senate bills – SB 6 and SB 14 – which help fund and protect child welfare programs at the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. He signed the bills in Laconia at the NH DHHS office and called them an effort to recognize the hardworking front line workers at the Division of Children, Youth, and Families.
"Reforming and rebuilding our child welfare system has been a priority of my Administration since day one," he said. "The funding for these bills takes effect immediately. They build upon the progress made last year, which will help our state's most vulnerable children, DCYF's frontline workers, and the families of New Hampshire who are counting on us to get it right."
The Senate bills, Sununu noted, came to the governor's desk after a month of "waiting on Senate leaders, who had previously withheld the bills for unknown reasons," a press statement noted.
Senate President Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, called the bills the biggest step forward the state has made in a generation for the wellbeing of New Hampshire's children.
"I am grateful for the leadership of Senator Morgan and Senator Feltes," she added, "and all the advocates, on these crucial initiatives and look forward to Governor Sununu signing these Senate bills into law so we can continue building upon the progress our state has made on child welfare reform."