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Does the Baker administration want to kill solar?

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Author: Charley on the MTA

One has to ask … whose side are they on?

The growth of solar energy represents a virtuous cycle on a number of levels: People can create their own clean, fossil-free power, put it back into the grid, and make a little money doing so. The state has a strong interest in encouraging this, for reasons of reducing pollution; local small business development; and meeting the state’s legally-mandated emissions targets for greenhouse gases, which affect everyone’s well-being.

So who doesn’t like this? The utilities, predictably: The current monopoly placeholders of the legacy power-delivery system. And they are leaning heavily on the Baker administration to bend the rules their way, instead of your way:

THE BAKER ADMINISTRATION, which favors keeping a cap in place on one solar subsidy program, is now tinkering with another solar price support. [SREC, a solar credit that a utility can buy to meet its clean-energy production quota]

State officials say they plan to change the way a key solar subsidy is auctioned to curb price speculation by hedge funds and Wall Street firms. Judith Judson, the commissioner of the state Department of Energy Resources, estimates the changes in auction rules will save electricity ratepayers at least $20 million a year.

But critics of the move say the change is being carried out with no public debate and may actually increase electricity rates rather than lower them. The critics also say the latest move is another sign that concern among utility executives about the high cost of solar power is driving policy within the Baker administration….

A state task force released a long-awaited report in May saying that the growth of solar power is dependent on subsidies and that the subsidies yield more economic benefits to ratepayers than they cost. But some members of the task force said the economic benefits of solar could be attained at far less cost. One utility executive said Massachusetts ratepayers are paying more than twice as much as Connecticut ratepayers for solar power.

via Baker seeks to curb solar speculators – CommonWealth Magazine.

So the administration wants to keep Wall St. out of the SREC market to keep the SREC prices down for utilities. That means *somewhat* lower prices for consumers ($20 million), but also *less incentive* for folks to go solar.

You would need some serious economics-wonking to find the sweet spot where you get robust solar development at the “right” cost. But that cost is more than just an economics question, it’s a value judgment of the public’s interest.

Should there be a thumb on the scale in favor of locally-produced solar and wind, versus — oh, say, gas pipelines? Hell yes, there should be, as a matter of public protection from pollutants, pipelines (and their inevitable ecological and economic disruption), and climate change. And there are local economies, jobs and even city budgets at stake.

In spite of his current popularity, as Peter Ubertaccio has observed, it looks like we elected a corporate Republican. There may well be good alternatives, particularly in a state which ought to lead the nation in clean energy.

Right now we are retreating. Watch your flank, Governor.

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