Don’t forget benefits of green energy use

Peter Shattuck, director of market initiatives at Environment Northeast, responds to concerns about green energy costs

The August 8 CommonWealth Back Story, “Green energy costs raising concerns,” highlights costs of Massachusetts’ energy policy, but a thorough evaluation also requires consideration of the benefits to determine the net value of energy efficiency and renewable energy programs for ratepayers.

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Massachusetts energy efficiency programs (which are funded through rates) save consumers $3.49 for every $1 raised on customer bills. These programs buy down the cost of weatherization and efficient lighting and appliances, enabling homeowners and businesses to reduce their own energy consumption and decreasing demand across the entire electric system. System-wide reductions save all customers money by avoiding the need to build additional power plants and power lines to meet rising demand. Over just the last two years, demand reductions due to energy efficiency programs have led the grid operator, ISO-New England, to scrap plans for $416 million of infrastructure upgrades that customers would have paid for were it not for the benefits of energy efficiency.

Similar demand reductions are provided by solar installations, which typically produce energy on the hot summer days when it is needed most. Our entire electric system – from power plants to the transmission and distribution system – is overbuilt to supply electricity during a few dozen hours of peak demand. When solar power is used to help meet this demand on-site or locally, we can have a smaller, smarter, more cost-effective energy system. For this reason we look forward to the Patrick Administration’s solar analysis and the contribution it will make to understanding green energy benefits that must be considered in parallel with costs.

Peter Shattuck is director of market initiatives at Environment Northeast, a non-profit organization that researches and advocates innovative policies that tackle our environmental challenges while promoting sustainable economies. ENE combats global warming with solutions that promote clean energy, clean air, and healthy forests.