Setting the Record Straight on Solar Costs
With just a few days left for lawmakers on Beacon Hill to raise the solar net metering cap and allow strong solar development to continue in Massachusetts, it seems that some stakeholders are spreading misinformation to claim that solar is not a valuable investment for customers in our Commonwealth. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) published a blog this weekend that overstated the cost of solar to customers, did not take into account the benefits and accused the solar industry of refusing to discuss the cost of solar incentives.
As a member of the Net Metering and Solar Task Force, I can attest that the solar industry along with a diverse set of stakeholders examined both the costs AND the benefits of the Commonwealth’s solar programs extensively over a six-month period earlier this year. It’s unclear where or how AIM got its numbers, but according to our analysis of the data presented in the Net Metering and Solar Task Force report, they are way off.
Based on information in the Task Force report, the net cost of the Commonwealth's solar programs to non-participating ratepayers (the only group of stakeholders for whom costs exceed benefits) is $23/year for residential customers, $198/year for small commercial and industrial customers and $1620/year for large commercial customers, a fraction of the unsourced figures cited by AIM.
What’s more significant is that AIM’s analysis completely ignores the benefits that investing in solar provides all customers in Massachusetts. According to analysis done for the Task Force, the benefits of solar far outweigh the costs. In fact, for customers throughout the Commonwealth, every dollar invested in solar provides $2.50 in benefits.
That means investing $4 billion in solar provides $10 billion in benefits for the Commonwealth. How can the business community argue with that?
Moreover, NECEC and other solar business representatives have consistently supported reform to reduce the costs to customers of Massachusetts solar incentives, knows as the SREC (Solar Renewable Energy Credit) program. The SREC incentives have come down 30% since 2012, and the solar industry supports further incentive reform to reduce their costs even more.
Net metering makes up less than half of the support Massachusetts provides solar projects and it is already a lean, effective means of compensating solar customers. By uncapping net metering and reforming the incentive program at the same time, we can continue to see solar growth while reducing costs for ratepayers. Massachusetts can raise the net metering caps and reduce incentives to provide the most cost-effective support for solar.