Citing budget constraints and an influx of waitlisted applications, New Hampshire’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) recently announced the temporary closure of the state’s Residential Solar and Wind Rebate Program and Commercial and Industrial Solar Rebate Program.
According to the regulator, funding for these rebate programs comes from the Renewable Energy Fund (REF), which is sponsored by alternative compliance payments (ACPs) received from electric providers.
In an effort to meet New Hampshire’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS), which includes a mandate of 24.8% renewable energy by 2025, electric providers that cannot purchase enough renewable energy or that cannot get it at a reasonable price are allowed to meet the RPS through an alternative compliance payment into the REF, the PUC explains.
Under the Residential Solar and Wind Rebate Program, homeowners who install solar photovoltaic systems or wind turbines under 10 kW can receive a rebate of $0.50/W (up to $2,500) or 30% of the total project cost. On the other hand, the Commercial and Industrial Solar Incentive Program offers two different categories of rebates – one for solar thermal or photovoltaic systems under 100 kW and one for photovoltaic systems between 100 kW and 500 kW.
However, the regulator now has concerns about the state’s fiscal year 2018 budget and says the programs are closed “until further notice.”
According to a notice from Debra A. Howland, executive director of the PUC, the solar and solar/wind programs “are experiencing record demand and have application waitlists for rebates totaling approximately $1,000,000 and $500,000, respectively.”
The letter says both programs are shut down until at least Sept. 1 and until a final budget for fiscal year 2018 is approved by the PUC.
According to Karen Cramton, director of the commission’s sustainable energy division, electricity providers file annual compliance payments and reports for the prior calendar year by July 1.
“While we have an approximate idea on July 1 of the funding that may be available for all REF programs,” she says, “the reports and payments must be validated and a final budget approved by the commission before we know with certainty how much program funding we will have.”
The validation process is typically completed sometime in September, the PUC notes.
“Following the completion of the validation process, fiscal year program budgets are developed and submitted to the commission for approval,” continues Cramton.
The PUC says the rebate programs themselves may also be changed. Unaudited ACP revenues for 2016, the funding source for the fiscal year 2018 rebate programs, are approximately $3.6 million. The commission says it may consider changes to the program terms and conditions prior to the programs’ reopening.
The commission points out that it would provide an opportunity for public input before any program changes are made, however.
The PUC plans to return all applications received after July 13 and June 30 for the solar and solar/wind programs, respectively; for those received prior to July 14 and July 1, respectively, the PUC will process them on a “first-come, first-served basis under current program terms and conditions.”
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