Last week, Northeast Utilities (NU) in Massachusetts opposed a plan that would bring economic growth to the state while boosting use of cleaner and more efficient solar energy. Solar delivers a financial benefit to all ratepayers, but NU doesn’t like it because it prefers investing in large transmission and gas projects to increase their profits.
For example, a recent NU Analyst Day presentation shows that from 2014-2017, NU has $990 million in transmission projects planned. Ratepayers will foot the bill for these projects while the utility gets a financial return. At the same time, solar is only 0.33 percent of NU’s generation fleet. And while the utility does indicate that it is seeking to import 1,200 MW of hydro power from outside the US, that’s only if it can build a $1.4 billion transmission line at the expense of ratepayers. NU projects that transmission—in other words, increasing rates to build more infrastructure—will be about 50% of its consolidated earnings growth through 2015.
NU fears ratepayers going solar because it reduces the need to build expensive transmission lines. For the first time, ratepayers have an alternative to the status quo, and NU has real competition. This new competition is good for consumers because it pushes costs down, spurs innovation and offers energy choice. At the same time, it’s a threat to the NU monopoly that is accustomed to dictating both prices and service to its captive customers.
NU should not mislead consumers about solar just because it fears competition. If Northeast Utilities is going to attack solar, TASC asks that the monopoly at least admit to its motivation—profit protection.
Rooftop solar image via Shutterstock
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