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.

Meet the Author

Bill Sloan

Retired, Resident of Jamaica Plain
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.

Bill Sloan is retired and lives in Jamaica Plain.