Citizens Convince PUC to Defeat Anti-Solar Rate Case, MA Seeks Bold PV Vision, EPA Cracks Down on Coal
In the News | September 1, 2014 | Posted by Fred Greenhalgh
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Thanks to the wisdom of the Public Utilities Commission and the tireless efforts of many good people, this 18.4kw solar electric array for Foothills Physical Therapy in Cornish, Maine will not face punitive ‘standby’ fees for its clean solar generation now that CMP’s anti-solar rate case is dead.
Maine: CMP’s Solar Tax is DEAD but Rate Hikes Coming for Everyone
Maine’s PUC has voted unanimously to support a settlement which kills CMP’s anti-solar “standby charge.” This fee would have hiked the rates of solar customers by a minimum of $25/month to penalize them for generating their own electricity rather than buying regular grid power. CMP has also dropped more aggressive rate increases, and settled on a roughly $3/month price increase which will effect all customers starting September 1st.
“This is a major victory for the local solar industry, which has become a target of the utility company because people who generate their own clean power from sunshine do not have to pay the high cost of electricity generated by an outdated grid fueled by inefficient, centralized fossil fuel power plants,” said Phil Coupe, co-founder of ReVision.
Concurrently, Maine’s PUC has been mandated (through LD1652, the one solar bill to get through Maine’s legislature this session) to study the value of solar, and we are optimistic that the PUC will affirm what thousands of Mainers already know: solar delivers a strong economic and environmental return on investment. ReVision hopes to collaborate with utilities and industry leaders as we all work to develop sustainable business models that accelerate the transition from fossil fuel energy to clean, renewable energy, resulting in strong economic and environmental benefits for the Dirigo State.
ReVision Energy extends our deepest thanks to the hundreds of customers and other solar allies who have been instrumental in showing up, being present, sending in letters of support, writing in to newspapers, speaking on the radio and appearing on television throughout the past sixth months. It is significant that in the wording of the settlement, CMP themselves noted that the “numerous members of the public at the public witness hearings and in comments filed on the Commission’s CMS system” were a factor in their deciding to abandon the standby rate.
More details on the case available on our blog.
Controversial Solar Bill Dies in Massachusetts
Massachusetts, recognized as a leader in the national solar industry due to its commitment to market-based incentives and generous state rebates for solar, recently killed a controversial bill that proposed to expand the Bay State’s solar energy goals, but included several compromises desired by utilities.
Most controversial was the notion of adding minimum bills, which would cause some solar customers who currently have $0 electric bills to owe a minimum monthly charge of $5-10/month to the utility (as is currently the practice in ME and NH). Also controversial was a proposed re-design of the state’s popular SREC program, an incentive which offers a revenue stream for solar owners based on the environmental benefits of the system, above the offset electric costs. The SREC program would have been replaced with a new program that would have stepped down solar benefits over time, as Massachusetts grew closer to meeting its ambitious solar adoption targets.
Though the major legislation was abandoned, MA’s net metering cap was raised ultimately raised from 3% to 4% for private sector projects and 3% to 5% for public sector projects. Also, recognizing the complexity of developing far-reaching solar policy that integrates the interests of numerous stakeholders, a 17-member task force will be created by Oct. 1 to make recommendations to the legislature on net metering policies and solar incentives in the spring of 2015.
More information on the Solar Energy Business Association of New England (SEBANE) site:http://www.sebane.org/. ReVision Energy is not a member of SEBANE and did not participate in any proceedings for this MA bill.
EPA Taking Public Comment on Proposed Carbon Regulations
The EPA is looking for public feedback on their “Clean Power Plan,” a proposed set of emission guidelines for states to follow in developing plans to address greenhouse gas emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units.
These guidelines, if adopted, would continue progress already underway to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil fuel-fired power plants in the United States (such as the successful “RGGI” greenhouse gas initiative which Maine, NH, and Massachusetts participate in, despite efforts from some lawmakers to pull out of it).
By 2030, the steady and responsible steps EPA is taking will:
- Cut carbon emission from the power sector by 30 percent nationwide below 2005 levels, which is equal to the emissions from powering more than half the homes in the United States for one year
- Cut particle pollution, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide by more than 25 percent as a co-benefit
- Avoid up to 6,600 premature deaths, up to 150,000 asthma attacks in children, and up to 490,000 missed work or school days—providing up to $93 billion in climate and public health benefits
- Shrink electricity bills roughly 8 percent by increasing energy efficiency and reducing demand in the electricity system
ReVision Energy strongly supports the EPA’s goals to limit carbon pollution. Our view is that power plants being allowed to generate carbon dioxide emissions without financial penalty is akin to having been given unlimited license to treat our skies like an open sewer. This cross-subsidy allows fossil fuel emitting plants to appear to be cost-effective, when in reality broader society pays steep health, environmental, and economic costs for the pollution they generate. The EPA’s guildelines are a step towards establishing some basic parameters to govern carbon pollution in the same way that they govern emissions of other pollutants like arsenic and mercury.
For the renewable energy sector, recognizing that there are costs associated with dumping carbon into the atmosphere reshapes the discussion dramatically. By accounting for the real costs of carbon pollution, the value of solar energy, energy efficiency, and other renewable energy technologies will be even more obvious.
Coal industry executives are fighting these new regulations very hard, making bogeyman claims about how even modest regulation of carbon pollution will result in higher costs for electricity to consumers. The reality is that the economic impacts of climate change are already being felt, and are poised to rise dramatically in the decades to come. Please read through the policy, make up your own mind, and send in your thoughts to the EPA. The EPA will be taking public comment until October 16, 2014.