Solar rebates halted

Renewable energy projects on hold

NASHUA – The state is putting all solar rebates on hold as funding for the program is running low, according to a statement released by the Public Utilities Commission.

The program, which has provided $2,500 rebates to individuals and more to businesses, is funded by payments that utility companies make to a trust fund as part of a statewide renewable energy plan. The rebates are used to encourage homeowners and businesses to switch to using renewable energy, bringing down the initial cost of these projects.

“It has provided an important boost to make it more possible,” said Dan Weeks, a Nashua resident who works in the renewable energy industry.

Under New Hampshire law, a certain percentage of energy supplied by utilities operating in the state must be from renewable fuels and resources. Electric providers who cannot purchase enough renewable energy or who cannot get it at a reasonable price are allowed to meet this requirement through an alternative compliance payment into the Renewable Energy Fund, according to the PUC’s statement. Those payments, used to fund the solar and wind rebate program, has been put on hold.

Weeks said many businesses, and especially nonprofits, need the rebate to make the renewable projects make fiscal sense. The rebates help lessen the payback time on the investment.

“This can be a deciding factor,” he said.

New Hampshire has had to temporarily halt the rebate program, Weeks said. Last year the Renewable Energy Fund had about $3.2 million for the rebates, and it is expected to have about $3.6 million in fiscal year 2018. Organizers say the sheer volume of people and organizations switching to renewable energy, and qualifying for the rebates, has been a strain on the system.

“We’ve gone from a small number of projects a few years ago to thousands of new projects at the end of this year,” Weeks said.

The PUC will bring back the rebates in early September, once it has firmer numbers on the total amount of money in the Renewable Energy Fund and a better sense of how many projects qualify for funding. It has announced that the rebate program may change in the coming year.

Weeks said the state changed the rebate from $3,750 for an individual, down to $2,500. He expects another drop in the rebate value as a result of this current halt. Right now, the uncertainty about the program is holding up commercial projects, Weeks said.

The PUC will hold public sessions to get input before any changes are made to the program.