Clean Power

Published on March 1st, 2014 | by Peter Allen


Nor’easter Raging Over Solar Power In Massachusetts

March 1st, 2014 by  

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is not beating around the bush when it comes to making his state the greenest in the nation. The Green Communities Act he pushed in 2008 started Massachusetts down the road of expanded conservation and investment in renewable energy. One of his current goals is to generate 1,600 megawatts of solar energy statewide by 2020.

MassachusettsIn order to meet such an ambitious target, the Patrick plan requires utilities and other big energy consumers to get a certain amount of their power from solar producers, which can range from large-scale farms to single-family residences with rooftop installations. This would not only force utilities to diversify their entrenched transmission networks, but also would incentivize more homeowners and small businesses to become players in the solar market, further eroding the profits to which utilities have become accustomed.

As one might expect, the Massachusetts utility industry is none too pleased. And when we say “industry,” we’re really talking about Northeast Utilities System, far and away the state’s largest energy provider and among the largest in New England. With Patrick’s plan on the verge of achieving the critical mass needed to pass the state legislature, NU and others have begun to raise the familiar, unjustified spectre of increased consumer rates in order to halt solar progress.

Like the litany of laments heard from other investor-owned utilities in response to the rooftop solar movement, NU’s argument makes it sound like they care about ratepayers. In reality, they are trying to mask their true motivation: money.

Investor-owned utilities have no interest in supporting efficient renewable energy deployment like rooftop solar, and they’ll fight any and all legislation that requires them to do so. In a press release on the recent events in Massachusetts, The Alliance for Solar Choice, a coalition of solar energy companies, points out that NU’s own analysis shows they have almost $1 billion invested in transmission projects over the next four years. Meanwhile, solar energy makes up just a tiny fraction of NU’s internal energy generation.

The more NU ratepayers turn toward solar for their homes and businesses, the less return the utility stands to receive from their investment in a centralized infrastructure. And ratepayers will end up footing the bill for NU’s hubris through the rate hikes similar to those NU is now using to push back on the Patrick plan. Hypocrisy at its finest.

The good news is that Governor Patrick and Massachusetts lawmakers continue to demonstrate support for investing in today and our future. That’s because they understand what’s at stake: the future of our health, our environment, and the freedom of choice that every American consumer deserves. It’s a shame that investor-owned utilities like NU don’t share their vision.

Massachusetts image via Shutterstock

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About the Author

is an independent media strategist based in San José, CA. You can read his many musings on Twitter @pjallen2.

  • For as far as I try look into the future, I see a need for transporting energy. There are many ways to transport energy. You can load a train with coal or biomass (wood chips) or load a tanker with hydrogen and then drive it to where you need it. That is like putting a jpeg on a floppy disk and sending it through the mail.

    The grid will morph into the Internet of energy, just like darpanet morphed into our Internet.

    • Bob_Wallace

      That’s an interesting way to look at the issue.

      Right now we are keeping the lights on by transporting fossil fuel from where is obtained to where we need it to create electricity. As we go forward we will need to transport energy from places where renewable resources are most available to where we need that energy.

      Some robust transmission lines could make it much easier to get off fossil fuels by allowing us to ship power from more abundant areas to less abundant areas.

  • patb2009

    NU is going to need to evolve a business plan fast, the biz plan for hawaii and the american southwestern utilities is in complete failure. the wave is spreading out.
    If people start investing into storage as well, the grid won’t last.

    • Bob_Wallace

      “If people start investing into storage as well, the grid won’t last.”

      When people post stuff like that they demonstrate that they have no off grid experience.

      (Bob, off the grid for over 20 years.)

      Yes, we need a new financial model for the grid. But the grid is almost certain to survive.

  • Will E

    Utilities will be a goner.
    They get their money from customers.
    In Europe the Utility companies lost since 2008 800 billion euros in downgraded stock value.
    When they have no more customers they have no more money.
    and no more power.
    Solar is clean and easy and customers can make a lot of dollars
    when going Solar. This change cannot be stopped.
    For the benefit of all people.

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