After cap is hit, broad coalition stands up for solar energy

Advocates deliver pro-solar letter signed by 500 business leaders
For Immediate Release

Boston — One week after a cap on an important clean energy program was hit, leaving the future of solar energy in Massachusetts in doubt, a broad coalition of low-income advocates, business leaders, health advocates, environmental organizations, and others gathered at the State House in support of solar.

Participants delivered a letter signed by more than 500 small business leaders asking Governor Baker to commit to getting 20% of Massachusetts’ electricity from solar by 2025.

“All across the state, solar energy is helping communities fight global warming and reduce harmful air pollution, while providing a boost to the local economy,” said Ben Hellerstein, campaign organizer for Environment Massachusetts. “Solar is working for Massachusetts, and state officials should do everything in their power to bring as much solar to Massachusetts, as quickly as possible.”

The letter was delivered as part of the Stand Up For Solar lobby day, where more than a hundred community leaders and activists met with legislators and administration officials to discuss pro-solar policies.

Lobby day participants asked state officials to support an immediate increase in the caps on net metering, one of the state’s most important solar programs. Net metering allows solar panel owners to receive fair compensation for the electricity they provide to the grid. Current legislation places a cap on the amount of solar power eligible for net metering, and the limit for solar projects in the National Grid service territory was recently hit.

Participants also asked legislators and the Governor to endorse a long-term policy framework, including community shared solar policies and an energy storage incentive program, that would enable the state to reach 20% solar by 2025.

“Solar power makes sense for a low-income community like Codman Square: it helps to lower resident energy costs, helps residents stay in place in their homes, and protects resident health by reducing air pollution, all while helping the City reach its climate change goals,” said Gail Latimore, Executive Director of the Codman Square Neighborhood Development Corporation (CSNDC). “Our LEED Silver Certified residential development, the Levedo Building, generates about 25% of its total electric consumption from a rooftop solar installation, and we’re exploring options for a Community Shared Solar program that would bring the benefits of solar to even more residents in the neighborhood and help address equity concerns.”

Community shared solar projects are helping many families to access the benefits of solar energy even if they rent their home or their roof can’t accommodate a solar installation. Supportive state policies have enabled affordable housing developments like Boston’s Old Colony Housing Project to install solar panels on their roofs.

Solar helps lower electric bills for all ratepayers, including those who don’t use solar power, by reducing demand on the grid during hot summer days when the cost of electricity is typically highest.

“Residents of Holyoke have experienced the harmful effects of dirty energy firsthand,” said Carlos Rodriguez, a member of Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts. “We won a major victory for public health when the Mount Tom coal plant shut down. Now, it’s time to repower our communities with clean energy, and solar is a big part of how we’ll do that.”

Solar energy has grown by an average of 127% per year in Massachusetts over the last three years, reducing Massachusetts’ global warming emissions and curbing other forms of harmful air pollution. In 2014, Massachusetts installed enough solar capacity to power 50,000 homes with clean energy.

Massachusetts’ solar industry now supports more than 12,000 jobs. More people work in the solar industry in Massachusetts than in any other state except California.

"We're already experiencing the effects of global warming here in Massachusetts, and young people could see it get a lot worse during our lifetimes," said Andrew Snow, a student at Fitchburg State University and the solar campaign coordinator for MASSPIRG Students. "We're advocating for more solar energy because it's one of the best ways to cut carbon emissions and avoid the worst impacts of global warming."

The letter delivered to Governor Baker today was signed by more than 500 small business leaders whose businesses are not directly involved in the solar industry. Signers of the letter include the owners of barbershops, coffee shops, jewelry stores, restaurants, and more, in communities like Pittsfield, Quincy, Worcester, Marblehead, and Fitchburg.

Earlier this fall, Environment Massachusetts delivered a letter signed by 340 city and town officials, asking Governor Baker to support a goal of 20% solar by 2025.

“Solar energy does more than keep the lights on — it can be used to power transportation and heat homes,” said State Senator James Eldridge (D-Acton). “Investing in solar strengthens our economy, and moves us towards a more sustainable future. Solar is working in Massachusetts, and the passage of legislation I filed, An Act Relative to Net Metering, Community Shared Solar and Energy Storage (SD1616/ H.2852), would allow our solar-powered economy to continue to grow.”

The organizations sponsoring today’s Stand Up for Solar lobby day include American Lung Association of the Northeast, BASEA (Boston Area Solar Energy Association), Better Future Project, Cape & Vineyard Electric Cooperative, Clean Water Action, Climate Action Now, E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), Environment Massachusetts, Environmental League of Massachusetts, Massachusetts Climate Action Network, MASSPIRG Students, MassSolar, Neighbor to Neighbor Massachusetts, Next Step Living, SEBANE (Solar Energy Business Association of New England), Sierra Club, Sustainable Business Network of Massachusetts, Toxics Action Center, and Vote Solar.

“We’re proud to stand alongside low-income advocates, health organizations, local elected officials, and more than 500 business leaders supporting solar energy,” said Ben Hellerstein. “Governor Baker and other state officials should listen to the overwhelming public support for solar energy and lead Massachusetts towards a goal of 20% solar by 2025.”