New Hampshire State Solar RebatesNew Hampshire is becoming a renewable energy leader in the Northeast thanks to increasingly progressive energy policies and generous incentives for solar installations.

Homeowners have been able to enjoy a $3/watt system rebate up to $6,000, which takes a big bite out of the cost of a solar electric system and brings the ‘simple’ return on the system to under 7 years in many cases (see more on solar electric ROI).

However, in a recent order of notice (DE10-194 – full details here (PDF)), New Hampshire’s Public Utilities Commission has proposed reducing the rebate from $3/watt, $6,000 max to $1.5/watt, $3,000 max.

Here’s an explanation:

The incentive payments are funded through the Renewable Energy Fund (REF), which is supported by alternative compliance payments (ACPs) made by electric service providers who cannot meet their Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) obligations through the purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) …

the REF [has] an uncommitted balance of approximately $1.5 million. Given that the small residential renewable incentive program experiences an average of 20 incentive applications per month, totaling an average of $12,800 per month in incentive payments, or, $1.5 million annually, and assuming this rate of participation will continue at that level, the fund could be exhausted by this program before the end of fiscal year 2011 and would likely exceed the portion of funding that should go to residential programs …

Based on these factors, the Commission proposes to halve the incentive payment to $1.50 per watt and the per-system maximum to $3,000 for small residential electrical renewable energy facilities. Lowering the incentive payment and per-facility maximum amount will allow for the same number of systems that are currently processed for rebates to be eligible for incentives, thus providing continued business for installers of small residential renewable generation systems.

In other words, the program has been a victim of its own success!

UPDATE: According to the PUC at a September 1 public hearing, in the 13 months that the program has been in place, they’ve received 443 applications, of which 296 have been successfully completed and 147 are pending.  While they average 20 approved application per month, recently they received 27 new applications on as single day!

The upside of the drop in the residential rebate is that New Hampshire plans to introduce a business rebate very soon.

Commercial Rebates on the Way

The great news for business owners and anyone interested in cleaner New Hampshire air is that there will soon be commercial, nonprofit and municipal cash incentives for both solar electricity and solar hot water.

We attended a technical session on August 19 to review the PUC’s renewable energy rebate design considerations. There is an additional opportunity for public comment on August 30 at 10AM and opportunity for written comment until Sept 3.

There may still be changes yet, but the suggestions under consideration:

  • the… incentive payment for PV systems will begin at $1.25 per Watt for the first 20 kW and would decline to $1.00 per Watt for the next 35 kW and to $0.75/Watt from 55 kW up to 100 kW. In addition, the C&I rebate for a PV system would be capped at 25% of the cost of the facility, or $50,000, whichever is less. The $50,000 cap would be reached at a system size of45 kW under these incentive levels.
  • The [solar hot water] base rebate would be $0.07 per rated or modeled kBtu/year, capped at 25% of the cost of the facility or $50,000, whichever is less, as a one-time incentive payment.

Details in the full order of notice (PDF).

We’ll be attending this session and will write up the results and likely changes as soon as we have more details!