Eversource solar hikes unwarranted

Eversource solar hikes unwarranted

Benefits of photovoltaics exceed cost to utilities

I READ WITH INTEREST the story entitled “Eversource seeks higher fees on customers with solar.” In several instances, the utility’s stated reasons for its proposed fee hikes for customers with rooftop solar installations appear to me to be contrary to the facts.

While Eversource argues that solar homes use the power grid just like any other customer, this ignores the economic, health, and social benefits of renewable energy generation. A recent review of 16 cost-benefit analyses of net-metered solar energy generation in 12 states pointed out that, in three quarters of the cases studied (including one in Massachusetts), the benefits of solar generation exceeded their retail costs to the utilities.

These benefits include the fact that the solar photovoltaic electricity is produced and consumed locally, reducing the amount of energy lost in generation, long-distance transmission, and distribution in the grid whose costs Eversource wishes to recover. Moreover, net-metered solar electricity generation actually reduces the overall power demand during peak daytime hours, whose cost Eversource purports to be recovering through an extra charge on customers with solar panels.

I was particularly interested in Eversource’s claim that their proposed new charges are needed because “many” solar customers produce more power than they use. This is certainly not true in my experience. Both Solar City–which installed and owns my rooftop solar panels–and the Clean Energy Collective–which is building and owns a new community solar array in Holliston from which I will receive energy credits–insisted on reviewing my annual electricity bills in order to ensure that I would not receive annually more electricity than I consume. It is my understanding that this was a requirement for net metering imposed by Eversource itself.

According to Environment America, in 2015 electricity generation by solar panels owned by households and businesses prevented the atmospheric release of some 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the principal driver of global warming. In that year, moreover, the solar energy industry added jobs at a rate 12 times that of the overall US economy, according to Environment America. For these contributions, our electric utility proposes to raise the base fees of its customers with solar panels by over 50 percent.

Rather than propagating disinformation in a campaign that would turn neighbor against neighbor, Eversource would do well to acknowledge the documented public contributions of its customers who employ net-metered solar electricity generation. Rather than inventing disincentives for such generation, Eversource should be offering more incentives.

Meet the Author

Bill Sloan

Retired, Resident of Jamaica Plain
Bill Sloan is retired and lives in Jamaica Plain.

  • NortheasternEE

    Here is my problem. If everyone who installs solar panels for his use creates a net benefit to the utility and pays nothing for his grid connection, how are utilities going to maintain the grid if everyone installed solar panels for their use, and no one paid for grid maintenance?

    My house roof faces North. Not good for solar panels. I am paying extra for my neighbors with solar panels on their roof who use the grid just as much as I do for power and pay nothing.

    The 16 pseudo studies fail the test in the limit!

    • Stu Besnoff

      The article points out how you are benefiting from your neighbors with solar. The local utility does not need to add capacity for peak demand; and since distributed generation is closer to the load, the utility does not need to pay for loses which occur when the generation is farther away. This helps keep your rates low.

      Taking it to the limit, 100% distributed solar, does not apply to the current situation. We are talking about rates, fees, and the value of solar at this time. If, in the future, there is a very high concentration of distributed solar, the situation will be different. With the very low portion of solar at this time, it is not appropriate to describe the value of solar based on “if everyone installed solar panels”.

      • NortheasternEE

        Rates are rising and projected to continue rising. Rates are rising in the face of natural gas prices falling. While today’s burden for renewable energy is small, ISO-NE and utilities are warning that mandates for renewable energy, that bypass the competitive markets, are forcing rates to increase. In the case of net metering solar projects, the added cost is unfairly shifted to ratepayers who are unable to participate.

        The theoretical benefits, cited by the article, are not realizable in the real world.

        • beav

          NE gas supplies are inadequate during cold snap situations, so the price of power, especially in NE, can be delinked from the price of gas.
          Demand, even if it were flat, is constrained by a supply that is barely able to keep up. That small marginal supply surplus will drive price trajectory upward.

          With this article, their first paragraph, describing the benefits, I think, is accurate, except the daytime peak demand thing. That may or may not be true, depending on weather conditions.

          The paragraph that describes ‘benefits’ per Environment America are nothing but external ‘cost’ hooey.

          • NortheasternEE

            The reason we are running short on gas supply in the winter is because baseload coal and nuclear power is being forced into early retirement to make room for the projected mandated increase fro intermittent and variable wind and solar power that needs natural gas firming. the removal of nuclear is forcing CO2 emissions to increase. Winter peak demand is unaffected since it coincides with stormy cloudy conditions.

            Renewable energy RPS mandates are forcing rates to increase. CO2 emissions are rising. There are no benefits to wind and solar, only unintended consequences that has folks in denial.