I’m Ben Schlegel, a 15-year old sophomore at Manchester-Essex Regional High School in Massachusetts. I consider myself an environmentalist and am part of the Manchester Essex Green Team, a group of high school students who work to bring sustainable solutions to our community, like school composting and a recent school waste audit. My parents taught me at an early age to care for the environment, and with climate change wreaking havoc in every corner of the globe, I feel more now than ever that it’s my duty to educate the public about climate solutions available right now. So, let’s talk about solutions. When it comes to solar energy, rooftop solar, enabled through net metering, is a simple solution that is easy to implement, can have a huge impact, and just makes sense.
Have you heard of net metering? Maybe not, but as solar power becomes more ubiquitous, you’ll be hearing more and more about this term. For me, it all boils down to choice. Every American should be able to choose where their energy comes from, just like they’re able to choose what they eat or where to purchase their groceries. No one should be locked into using dirty energy from fossil fuels. In fact, as a nation, we should encourage residents to transition their households to clean energy, like rooftop solar, so youth like me can have a shot at a climate-stable future.
Alright, so what is net metering? Simple. If you have solar panels on your roof, net metering allows you to send any extra energy that you produce back to the grid and get credit for it. This means that when I go to school during the day and my energy use at home is low, my solar panels can pump electricity back into the grid and net metering allows me to earn full credit for that electricity. When I get home at night and my energy use goes back up, I can draw on that credit I banked up. Net metering is as simple as that. Good for my wallet and good for the planet. You can probably imagine how a benefit like net metering could greatly increase the proliferation of residential rooftop solar use! That’s great, right?
Okay, so here’s what’s not cool. Today, US residents have disproportionate access to the benefits of net metering because of differences in state policy. Some states have strong net metering policies and some don’t, and that’s a problem because solar is a far superior choice to dirty fossil fuels which cause climate change and damage human health.
Plus, in addition to staving off climate change, net metering is also a strong economic choice. California public agencies and schools will save a whopping $2.5 billion in electricity costs over the next 30 years using net metering. It also provides substantial statewide economic benefits in terms of jobs, income, and investment. Imagine if public schools across the nation utilized rooftop solar and benefited from the financial incentives of net metering. The results would be welcomed in terms of relieving the financial burden of many of our bankrupted school districts.
It’s clear that we need to jumpstart the shift to a clean economy and begin the transition entirely away from fossil fuels. Net metering empowers customers to go solar. More solar customers mean more jobs for the installers, electricians, and manufacturers who work in the solar supply chain. Today, the solar industry employs nearly 143,000 American workers in large part due to strong state net metering policies that have allowed the solar industry to thrive.
Now for more bad news. Unfortunately, some utilities perceive net metering as a lost revenue opportunity and they are trying to hurt it in Massachusetts and around the country. The truth is that net metering policies create a smoother demand curve for electricity and actually empower utilities to better manage their peak electricity loads! Who knew? By encouraging generation near the point of consumption, net metering also reduces the strain on distribution systems and prevents losses in long-distance electricity transmission and distribution.
It seems like a clear and simple choice to support net metering for a strong Massachusetts economy and a safe, stable climate.
I’m not old enough to vote yet, but some of you reading this are. I ask that you reach out to your legislators to resolve this issue and preserve net metering in Massachusetts. We need to extend the current net metering cap and open the door for all of Massachusetts to go solar.
I’m doing my part by educating the public about a climate solution available to us right now, using net metering to encourage widespread growth rooftop solar. Won’t you do your part?
About the Author: Ben Schlegel is a 15-year-old sophomore from Manchester-Essex High School in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts. He was taught to respect and care for the environment at a very young age, and that’s why he joined the Manchester-Essex Green Team in high school. This group participates in a wide range of projects that protect the climate and environment. Recent projects include single stream recycling, composting and a marine debris clean up by the seaside. Ben enjoys playing sports in his spare time, including baseball and basketball. He’s also an avid dirt biker and enjoys exploring the trails behind his grandparents’ house in New Hampshire.
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