Category Archives: legislation

Time running short on solar

Supporters of solar power in Massachusetts are trying to convince a six-member, Massachusetts legislative conference committee to pave the way for Massachusetts to continue to be a leader in solar power generation. Something has to happen soon, though, for by the end of this month it will be difficult, if not impossible, to alter the language of the “bad” solar bill currently in committee.

From CommonWealth Magazine staff member Bruce Mohl:

Inside the State House, the advocates played a key, behind-the-scenes role in convincing 100 House members to walk away from a previous vote slashing net metering rates and to sign a petition urging the conference committee to approve a bill similar to what the Senate has proposed. Net metering refers to the rate solar power generators are paid for the electricity they feed into the grid.
Outside the State House, solar advocates have also been making their case in a series of opinion pieces. Stephen Christy, the president and CEO of Sustainable Energy Professionals in Plainville, said the inaction on Beacon Hill has forced him to lay off his five employees. He also said the net metering cap is driving his firm out of Massachusetts and into New York.
Solar_panels_on_house_roofPhotovoltaic solar panels on a house roof in Massachusetts (image: Gray Watson)

New guide aims to help steer solar energy into low-income communities

[note: please don’t forget to sign Salem SAFE’s petition to stop gas leaks in Massachusetts! We only need 16 more signatures!]

Conference committee members are “trading proposals back and forth.”

New standards now being promoted would make Massachusetts lead the country in affordable solar energy, particularly for low-income cities and towns. However, the new standards are in jeopardy because of the current state of the discussions about the two competing bills, which are both presently in conference committee.

On the WWLP-22News website, by State House News Service contributor Katie Lannan:

BOSTON, Mass. (STATE HOUSE) – A policy guide launched Monday holds up Massachusetts as a leader in making solar energy accessible to low-income communities, but solar supporters said Monday that status could be at risk under legislation lawmakers are negotiating.

Competing House and Senate solar bills (H 3854 and S 2058) were referred on Nov. 18 to a conference committee. Lawmakers were charged with working out differences including the amount of power solar producers can sell back to the energy grid at retail rates through what is known as net metering.

“If the bill that comes out of committee is anywhere in between the what Senate version was and what the House version was, you are all but assured that low-income solar is in deep trouble in Massachusetts,” Emily Rochon, director of energy and environmental policy at Boston Community Capital, said during a conference call with reporters and solar advocates Monday.

Read more.

solar-panels
Photo courtesy: MGNonline

NYT Opinion: Planet on the Ballot

Comment from SAFE Co-Chair, Jeffrey Barz-Snell: “It appears that the goal of drastically reducing emissions is within reach, but the wrong leader could still get in the way of saving the planet.”

From NYT Op-Ed Columnist, Paul Krugman on Feb. 29, 2016:

krugman-circular-thumblarge-v4

We now have a pretty good idea who will be on the ballot in November: Hillary Clinton, almost surely (after the South Carolina blowout, prediction markets give her a 96 percent probability of securing her party’s nomination), and Donald Trump, with high likelihood (currently 80 percent probability on the markets). But even if there’s a stunning upset in what’s left of the primaries, we already know very well what will be at stake — namely, the fate of the planet.

Why do I say this?

Obviously, the partisan divide on environmental policy has been growing ever wider. Just eight years ago the G.O.P. nominated John McCain, whose platform included a call for a “cap and trade” system — that is, a system that restricts emissions, but allows pollution permits to be bought and sold — to limit greenhouse gases. Since then, however, denial of climate science and opposition to anything that might avert catastrophe have become essential pillars of Republican identity. So the choice in 2016 is starker than ever before.

Yet that partisan divide would not, in itself, be enough to make this a truly crucial year. After all, electing a pro-environment president wouldn’t make much difference if he or (much more likely) she weren’t in a position to steer us away from the precipice. And the truth is that given Republican retrogression and the G.O.P.’s near-lock on the House of Representatives, even a blowout Democratic victory this year probably wouldn’t create a political environment in which anything like Mr. McCain’s 2008 proposal could pass Congress.

But here’s the thing: the next president won’t need to pass comprehensive legislation, or indeed any legislation, to take a big step toward saving the planet. Dramatic progress in energy technology has put us in a position where executive action — action that relies on existing law — can achieve great things. All we need is an executive willing to take that action, and a Supreme Court that won’t stand in its way.

And this year’s election will determine whether those conditions hold.

Many people, including some who should know better, still seem oddly oblivious to the ongoing revolution in renewable energy. Recently Bill Gates declared, as he has a number of times over the past few years, that we need an “energy miracle” — some kind of amazing technological breakthrough — to contain climate change. But we’ve already had that miracle: the cost of electricity generated by wind and sun has dropped dramatically, while costs of storage, crucial to making renewables fully competitive with conventional energy, are plunging as we speak.

The result is that we’re only a few years from a world in which carbon-neutral sources of energy could replace much of our consumption of fossil fuels at quite modest cost. True, Republicans still robotically repeat that any attempt to limit emissions would “destroy the economy.” But at this point such assertions are absurd. As both a technical matter and an economic one, drastic reductions in emissions would, in fact, be quite easy to achieve. All it would take to push us across the line would be moderately pro-environment policies.

As a card-carrying economist, I am obliged to say that it would be best if these policies took the form of a comprehensive system like cap and trade or carbon taxes, which would provide incentives to reduce emissions all across the economy. But something like the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan, which would use flexible regulations imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency on major emitters, should be enough to get us a long way toward the goal.

And as I said, no new legislation would be needed, just a president willing to act and a Supreme Court that won’t stand in that president’s way, sacrificing the planet in the name of conservative ideology. What’s more, the Paris agreement from last year means that if the U.S. moves forward on climate action, much of the world will follow our lead.

I don’t know about you, but this situation makes me very nervous. As long as the prospect of effective action on climate seemed remote, sheer despair kept me, and I’m sure many others, comfortably numb — you knew nothing was going to happen, so you just soldiered on. Now, however, salvation is clearly within our grasp, but it remains all too possible that we’ll manage to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. And this is by far the most important issue there is; it, er, trumps even such things as health care, financial reform, and inequality.

So I’m going to be hanging on by my fingernails all through this election. No doubt there will be plenty of entertainment along the way, given the freak show taking place on one side of the aisle. But I won’t forget that the stakes this time around are deadly serious. And neither should you.

Call for action from Jeffrey Barz-Snell, Co-Chair of SAFE

The following email was sent our Co-Chair, Jeffrey Barz-Snell, out to the SAFE listserve regarding a bill in the House that could bring solar power business in our state to a grinding halt. We are posting Jeffrey’s letter here as well and hope that you will write your State Representatives and State Senators as a result. Here are the links to a template for a sample letter:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-Czxx1KRbfeZWs2MXVwME9aY2c/view?usp=sharinghttps://drive.google.com/file/d/0B-Czxx1KRbfeWnFBaXRqODBpb1E/view?usp=sharing

Jeffrey’s letter to SAFE:

—————-

Hello SAFE supporters,
     As we all know there is an attempt by Speaker DeLeo here in Massachusetts to change the regulations that permit the growth of solar and wind power here in the Commonwealth.  Representative DeLeo is listening to lobbyists for the public utilities and trying to undermine the business model on which solar and wind projects are based; specifically no longer obligating public utilities to buy back power from solar systems at almost the same exact price for which they are selling it.  This is calledNet Metering and it is a key regulation anywhere that solar has grown as an industry here in the US and around the world.
     The State of Nevada has already changed their net metering regulations, (through their Public Utilities Commission) and the impacts are significant and devastating to solar system owners and users in the state.  Similar sorts of changes to solar regulations are now being proposed in many states all over the country, in what appears to be a coordinated effort to undermine the growth of solar and wind power generation.  Here’s an article about what has happened in Nevada:
     This cannot and should not happen here in Massachusetts.  Call your local representative and senator (Paul Tucker and Joan Lovely here in Salem) and tell them you oppose House Bill 3854, which will change net metering rules and greatly reduce (or even eliminate) the growth of solar and wind generation here in the Commonwealth.  And encourage your friends and family all over the state to do the same.
     Thanks,
     Jeff Barz-Snell

 

 

 

OPINION: DeLeo is the reason solar on hold

Massachusetts House Representative Marjorie Decker recently held a press conference underlining the need to immediately lift the cap on net metering. Massachusetts is in danger of not only losing 15,000 solar jobs, but also of losing its solar installation companies to other states with solar legislation that is more favorable.

From CommonWealth Magazine, by Kate Galbo:

Fast-growing industry is being hung out to dry

While all parties agree that the next SREC program should be gradually reduced in size, the cap on net metering needs to be lifted. Having an arbitrary cap on the fair compensation for solar development increases uncertainty in the market, drives up costs, and reduces investment in the local energy economy. In addition, keeping the net metering credit rate at retail value will ensure that low-income, community shared, or municipal solar projects can move forward.

Massachusetts needs more leaders within the Legislature to answer the call to action. Unless members of the House recognize the need for dynamic solutions to lift the caps, not only does the Commonwealth risk losing its competitive edge, it risks losing its role as a clean energy leader.

Read more.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

[Image: Daderot at the English language Wikipedia]

Carbon Fee and Dividend In-Depth

From the Citizens Climate Lobby website:

The Basics of Carbon Fee and Dividend:
1. Place a steadily rising fee on fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas).
2. Give all of the revenue from the carbon fee back to households.
3. Use a border adjustment to discourage business relocation.
4. It’s good for the economy AND even better for the climate.

“…phased-in carbon fees on greenhouse gas emissions (1) are the most efficient, transparent, and enforceable mechanism to drive an effective and fair transition to a domestic-energy economy, (2) will stimulate investment in alternative-energy technologies, and (3) give all businesses powerful incentives to increase their energy-efficiency and reduce their carbon footprints in order to remain competitive…”

Read more.

Download Carbon Fee and Dividend, a full-text version of CCL’s Carbon Fee and Dividend proposal.

statelibqld_1_112164_smoke_pours_from_the_new_farm_power_house2c_1952
1952: Smoke pouring from the New Farm Power House in Brisbane, Australia caused numerous complaints from residents. Source: Wikimedia Commons

As solar becomes more cost-competitive, utilities look at how new technology affects their business models

This is occurring all over the country with respect to large utilities pushing back against the different forms of renewable energy, especially solar. It’s from the Al Jazeera America news site. This explains the issues quite well.

From  Al Jazeera America contributor, Renee Lewis:

States weigh rate changes for rooftop solar:

“Utilities don’t want to risk losing financial (compensation) for their investments in the grid to serve all customers, while rooftop solar developers don’t want to lose business opportunities if their potential customers are not compensated as highly by utilities when excess rooftop solar generation is sent back to the grid,” read a recent blog post by Pierre Bull, a policy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

Following Nevada’s decision, California’s new rules for solar customers showed there is a “better way,” Bull wrote.

California’s PUC decided last week to take a pause to look at grid impact and market analytics before making its decision.

In the meantime, “they have assured existing net metering customers that their generation will continue to be credited at the full retail rate, which is a good, reasonable approximation for the benefits they provide to the grid,” Bull wrote.

Last week, California’s PUC upheld net metering by 3-2, allowing solar customers to continue lowering their overall power bills — which assists them in paying off the investment in rooftop solar…

Read more.

solar installation
IMAGE: JOHN HARRINGTON / SUNRUN / AP