Warren redistributes solar income
Newton mayor steers city savings to low-income residents
NEWTON MAYOR SETTI WARREN announced a small solar project on Wednesday that will slightly trim the city’s electric bill and funnel the bulk of the savings to about 1,250 low-income residents of the community. The low-income residents will save about $40 to $50 a year, officials said.
The project itself is no different from countless deals municipals have negotiated with solar developers across the state. Most municipalities, however, use the proceeds from these deals to raise revenue or lower city electrical costs for the benefit of all taxpayers. What sets the Newton project apart is Warren’s decision to share most of the savings from the deal directly with low-income residents to help address income inequality in the wealthy Boston suburb.
“This project provides modest, modest, modest relief to some folks that need it the most in our city,” Warren said at a City Hall press conference. “There’s a lot more to do.”
Geri Kantor, senior project development manager for Ameresco, said the company will turn a profit by selling the electricity and taking advantage of state and federal solar subsidies. Electricity from the project is expected to start flowing at the start of 2017.
Newton officials say the city will pay $101,000 to Ameresco for $163,000 worth of net metering credits, which are state-created subsidies that can be used to offset charges on an electric bill. Newton officials said net metering credits worth $60,000 will be distributed to residents who currently receive special discounted rates from Eversource because they qualify for such means-tested public benefits as food stamps or MassHealth.According to a city handout, the Newton residents will see their electric bill drop by $40 to $50 a year, while Newton will garner about $2,000 in savings on its electric tab.
Warren, who many believe has plans to run for higher office, said the project will provide environmental and economic benefits for the city and its residents. But he also said the project will provide direct help to the one in eight Newton households living on less than $25,000 a year and help address income inequality.