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Ben Hellerstein,
Environment Massachusetts

Boston among region’s solar leaders, but more to be done

For Immediate Release

Boston - As Massachusetts continues to debate policies critical to the growth of solar power, a new report released today shows that Boston ranks in the middle of the pack for total installed solar capacity.

The report, which ranks Boston 21st among major U.S. cities for solar, comes as the state legislature considers raising Massachusetts’ solar goal to 25% solar by 2030.

“By using solar power here in Boston, we can reduce pollution and improve public health for everyday Bay Staters,” said Sharon Solomon with Environment Massachusetts “While Boston has taken some steps to encourage solar energy, we can do much more. Solar has a critical role to play in moving Boston to 100% renewable energy.

The report, Shining Cities: How Smart Local Policies Are Expanding Solar Power in America, ranks Boston ahead of cities like Philadelphia, Seattle, and Miami for the total amount of installed solar, but behind Newark, Portland, Ore., and Washington, D.C.

Boston has taken some steps to expand solar energy, such as creating the Renew Boston solar program, which helped lower the cost of solar installations for local families, and installing solar panels on schools and other public buildings. Additionally, businesses and community organizations are exploring innovative models to expand access to solar for low-income housing, churches, and families of limited means.

The report outlines additional steps that cities can take to encourage the adoption of solar energy, including requiring “solar-ready” or zero net energy buildings and reforming permitting processes.

"With regression happening with environmental policies in Washington D.C., it is important for cities and towns to lead in solar and renewable energy sources,” said Boston City Councilor Matt O’Malley.

The figures in the report reflect the recent growth of solar across the country. The top 20 cities listed in the report have nearly as much solar today as the entire country had installed in 2010. In 2016, solar was the number one new source of energy installed in America.

The Solar Foundation just released new data showing there are 12,486 people employed in solar in the greater Boston area.

“Solar energy helps build healthier and more resilient communities, and helps address energy affordability challenges created by rising energy prices.” said DeWitt Jones, President of BCC Solar Energy Advantage.  “Boston, along with the other cities highlighted in this report, has recognized that an investment in solar energy is an investment in the community.  As solar grows, solar policies need to expand, not contract, access for low income communities if cities are to continue to be solar leaders.”

Despite that growth, challenges remain for the solar industry in Massachusetts. Caps on the state’s most important solar program, net metering, are holding back the growth of solar energy. The Legislature is currently considering bills that would lift or eliminate the caps on net metering, restore the full value of net metering credits, and set a goal of getting 25% of the state’s electricity from solar by 2030.

Cities can push solar forward in a number of ways, according to the report. Among the recommendations, cities can set a goal for solar usage, help residents finance solar power and put solar on government buildings.

Across the country, 25 cities — including San Diego and Burlington, Vt. — have committed to get 100% of their electricity from clean, renewable sources.

“Cities are big energy users with lots of unutilized roof space suitable for solar panels,” said Solomon. “Boston has only just begun to tap its solar potential. It’s time for the City to go big on solar and lead the way to 100% renewable energy.”

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Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center is a statewide environmental organization dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces.