Wednesday, January 6, 2010

CASE STUDY: Solar Energy Saves Massachusetts $6 1/2 Billion

By Nathan Lew

On January 1 of 2010, Massachusetts residents with installed solar power will be able to take advantage of the state's new net metering law, which provides for grid-connected renewable energy installations like wind and solar to capture retail rates for energy not used in the home.

This overturns the provisions of the 2008 Green Communities Act, which provided for wholesale rates for excess electricity generation, though the intent of the Act - which focuses on energy remains the same; to reduce the consumption of electricity. Peripheral efforts, which require utilities to ramp up their energy conservation efforts (through more efficient lighting, air conditioning, appliances, insulation and sealing building envelopes), are also underway.

Massachusetts' demand for electricity rises at about 1 percent annually. If allowed to continue unabated, this would mandate the state to build new power plants. Under the amended Green Communities Act, state energy regulators expect demand to fall by about 1.4 percent per year, which is enough for the state to meet its rising energy needs through efficiency and conservation measures rather than the added generation anticipated by 2020 at the latest.

A similar set of natural gas efficiency programs are expected to save $1.2 billion in energy costs over the next three years, with Gov. Deval Patrick estimating the total electric and gas savings at $6.5 billion over the same period, while creating new jobs.

Though the program doesn't officially begin until Jan. 1, property owners can begin to submit applications Dec. 1 to earn the credits they will receive if generation exceeds usage. Participating utilities include Fitchburg Gas and Electric Light Company, or FG&E (a subsidiary of Unitil Corp. a utility holding company), National Grid, NSTAR and Western Mass. Electric Company, or WMECO.

Municipal utilities are not obligated to participate, and the state has no electric cooperatives, but the law does provide for "neighborhood net metering", or a group of 10 customers of a single utility in the same vicinity. This provision covers all classes, and may incorporate additional "customers" (including commercial enterprises) as long as the base requirements are met.

The net metering payment is in the form of credits, and these can be carried forward from month to month indefinitely. They can also be transferred to another customer within the same utility service area and the same Northeast Independent System Operator (ISO) distribution zone.

The NREL recently published a report (State of the States 2009: Renewable Energy Development and the Role of Policy) which shows that Massachusetts - ranked 31st in the U.S. in renewable energy generation - has a long way to go to meet the 1-percent load limit imposed by the new Green Communities Act provisions on renewable energy fed into the grid.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, or NREL - the premier organization devoted to renewable energy research and evaluation - also noted that states with renewable portfolio standards and/or net-metering rules in place generated more "clean" renewable energy than those which did not.

Cooler Planet is a leading solar resource for connecting consumers and commercial entities with local solar Installers. Cooler Planet's solar panel resources and solar energy page contains articles and tools to help with your solar project.

Article Source:$6-1/2-Billion&id=3431034

No comments:

Post a Comment