Solar is under attack

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For years Massachusetts has proudly led our nation’s growing solar energy economy, harnessing local sunshine and local innovation to create jobs and lower energy bills in communities across the commonwealth. But today that leadership is at risk, and we need Governor Baker and our state legislators to take bold action.

Our locally owned and operated solar installation companies are located statewide, from Martha’s Vineyard to the Berkshires, and range in size from eight to 80 employees. Collectively, the 15 companies that signed this letter employ more than 400 solar workers who installed 1,500 solar systems for nearly 20 megawatts of solar power capacity just last year. Our organizations have been in business for 15 years on average, so we have seen the Massachusetts solar market grow from its very beginning.

This week, we learned that the number of solar workers in Massachusetts dropped by 21 percent, the second largest decline of any state in the nation, from the Solar Foundation’s 2017 Solar Jobs Census. Massachusetts lost more solar jobs — 3,000 — than were gained by 20 other states combined. This marks the second year in a row of job losses in what should be, and has been for the past decade, a bright spot in our local economy. The commonwealth still ranks among the leading solar employers in the U.S., but the fact that new residential solar installations declined by half — from over 23,000 in 2016 to approximately 10,000 in 2017 — is a worrying trend from a state that claims to be leading the nation on clean energy and climate.

The decline in last year’s solar installation and employment numbers was caused by a combination of national market trends, state policy uncertainty — including a long-running and frustratingly intermittent cap on one of Massachusetts’ most successful solar programs (net metering), and a much-longer-than-expected development effort for the state’s next solar compensation program.

And already in the first month of 2018, Massachusetts regulators rubber-stamped an unfair new charge that will hike bills for future solar customers of the commonwealth’s largest utility, Eversource. The only other time a utility has imposed this type of confusing and costly “demand charge” on residential customers was in Arizona in 2015, and it resulted in an astounding 95 percent decrease in solar adoption by the utility’s customers. Adding insult to injury, President Trump approved an additional misguided 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels, which puts even more of our solar installation jobs at risk as federal uncertainty turns to outright hostility.

Given the assault on solar in Massachusetts, our local green economy cannot afford anything less than bold leadership from Massachusetts policymakers to get us through this troubled time. State leaders have the power to raise the restrictive net metering cap, reverse the Eversource solar tax, thoughtfully implement the new SMART compensation program, and require an independent Value of Solar study to inform future policy that will allow communities, businesses, and families of all income levels to go solar.

When it comes to healthy, job-creating, affordable clean energy, we need Massachusetts to be leading the charge, not taking steps backward. And we need that leadership to come right from the top. Now is the time for Governor Baker and our legislature to work together to overcome these headwinds with strong solar policy so businesses like ours can keep investing, creating jobs, and serving the people of Massachusetts.

 

Rob Meyers is co-owner and energy services manager at South Mountain Co. in West Tisbury. The firm and 14 other solar companies across the state are lobbying for changes to the regulations surrounding solar energy in Massachusetts.

 

26 COMMENTS

  1. Solar is under attack because the marketplace is functioning. Solar is not cost efficient and requires tax subsidy.

      • Absolutely we should not give tax credits for big oil. But big oil is a going concern and profitable while solar is not profitable and cannot function efficiently without subsidy. Big oil can. I am not giving tax credits for buggy whips, dont want to do it for electric cars. Let people buy goods and services at good quality and lowest cost. Whenever the camel gets its neck under the tent—–well, get the government out of picking winners and losers.

        • wow– you never cease to amaze me , Andrew–You are so far under the tent, we can’t even recognize that there is a camel”s butt under there.
          I know you are capable of typing “google” into your browser, and finding the truth. how can you criticize subsidies for solar and deny subsidies for oil ? You know the numbers– you are presenting a false narrative– you know it– i know it– yet you persist– i wonder how, given your image of yourself as a “moral christian” you can post something as deceptive and immoral as this ?
          Your posts are believed by those who are not fortunate enough to have the educational opportunities you had. You know better Andrew, and yet you persist with a narrative that may keep you wealthy at the expense of the underprivileged . Shame on you . Andrew, shame on you…

          • Dondondon. I dont want subsidies for anything. I want them to be cost effective on their own merits. Furthermore it is not a moral issue and certainly not a Christian issue. It is pure economics. Subsidy is a tax on people and distorts the market. I dont have any image of myself—you are projecting. There is no false narrative but your post is unintelligable. Furthermore my so called ”wealth”” did not come at the expense of anyone who was underpriviliged. Solar doesnt work. Until and unless it does work as a cost efficient source of energy I will continue to believe it is silly. that is not false and it is not immoral and it certainly isnt deceptive. Let solar operate without subsidy and we will all see the deception you promote.

          • Solar power and specifically photovoltaics works quite well at generating electricity. You saying, “it doesn’t work” shows a depth of ignorance on the matter that is disheartening. That statement is you excluding yourself from what the future will be, because renewable energy is and will continue to be a growing percentage of the electricity on power systems the world over.

            Your intractable position seems to represent a desire to cling to a delusion that government and economics are mutually exclusive concepts. Every economically important industry (of which there are many) can and will be bolstered by public policy and legislation that codifies a tariff on imports, or a tax incentive, or a bailout or a some other source of financial benefit. Both Republicans and Democrats use policies like these to guide and protect industry and for very good reason: to guide and protect our economy.

        • To state that the oil industry is profitable and can stand on its own is patently false.
          2017 study by the Stockholm Environmental Institute published in Nature Energy magazine estimated that nearly half of US oil production would be unprofitable without subsidies.
          Of course the devil is in the details… Are we factoring externalities (smog, illnesses, etal.) and at what price? The US oil industry is blindly growing and teetering on a quicksand of fracking and the toxic fluids that are used. Exactly how is this filth being priced? What is the price of cleaner air, less mercury, lead emissions and other environmental benefits from solar?
          In looking/planning for the future, where is the electricity coming from for electric cars? Every Volvo from 2019 will be electric. By 2030 gasoline-powered vehicle will be phased out in Germany, the birthplace of Benz and Diesel. Other countries and cities (Paris, London) are following suit. Estimates from the 2018 Detroit Auto Show calculate $90 Billion to be spent on electric cars – the future is upon us.
          I am constantly amazed that people ASSUME FACTS that are untruths.

          • RES you have to learn to read an earnings statement. Exxon alone earned 40.6 billion in profit last year. Alone. and total subsidy to oil companies in the USA was 4 billion. Those are facts. I am amazed that you can invent things or throw in your version of hidden costs that no one can measure. Oh the cost of the sea rising 8 feet in year 2100. I forgot that.

          • Andrew– so if exxon alone is making 40.6 billion a year, why do they still get 4 billion in subsidies. And you actually deny the fact the the ocean is rising– not sure how you neglect that on an earnings sheet– aren’t there cost associated with that ? Apparently not yet.. but somewhere down the line, someone will have to pay something to protect our cities from the rising sea level. You throw out an 8 ft number– well, you are exaggerating, and we all know it– but perhaps that will happen. But let’s just look at 2 ft of seal level rise– who will pay for that ? Exxon knew years ago about global warming– mounted a campaign of disinformation and contributions to politicians to do nothing— so they make 40 billion, a year- get 4 billion from tax payers every year ( that’s $32 from every tax payer) and will walk away when the fecal matter hits a revolving device designed to move air. Just because you think no one can measure the “hidden cost” ( which of course are measurable to some degree) does not mean they don’t exist. There are cost associated here– you know it, I know it, exxon execs know it– and to deny it is immoral. I assert that, and accuse you of immorality, because people will die because of the big oil lies. You support them– you know better Andrew– The people who read fox news and alt right conspiracy sites are mislead by greedy leaders. You know better , Andrew– you have been at the heart of the problem, and you defend the indefensible– that is why I feel obligated to say “shame on you”

  2. I don’t think a $3 demand charge per month is too bad, but the logic behind it is dubious at best. Clearly the managers at the State level don’t have the time to understand it completely, and this is America…where money talks…not logic. So here we are. The order did though allow a multi million dollar investment in a 5MW energy storage system right here on the island. That’s pretty cool!

    Our regulators should know the utilities are desperate they should keep them at arms length. The democratization of energy is coming. It can be slowed but not stopped.

    https://pv-magazine-usa.com/2018/01/10/massachusetts-oks-residential-demand-charges-for-eversource/

  3. Vanadium. Of course it works. But at what cost.? I don’t want government involved in most things. Everything it touches it ruins because it is made up of beuracrats feeding at the trough. Don’t want tariffs, don’t want tax incentives, no subsidies. The problem with subsidy is that the baby never grows up. I am not against renewables as long as they stand on their own. Our entire welfare system is predicated upon subsidy which evolves into embedded entitlement. Protectionism of any kind simply raises prices. Get government out of the way and you will see growth. Government has a small role to play in defense, police work, some transportation and some regulation. Now it strangles and frustrates.

    • Not honest to protest Solar if you don’t hold Big Oil to the same standard. Big Oil should grow up and stand on its own. They make record profits and get government “welfare.”

    • I see you using allot of key words that just have no basis in reality. Sloganeering doesn’t get anything done. You positions seem myopic. You seem convinced there is substantial and systemic failure of our government to be a positive force in our economy. Can you sight me evidence of rabid failure on the part of our government in this manner, or is gossip and hearsay all you have to prove your point?

      Government has played a role in fomenting the welfare of the economy since our country’s inception. Leaders of both Party’s have done this in a responsible way for hundreds of years.

      • Vanadium. You want evidence of government failure? How about 20 trillion of debt which is more than the annual GNP? How about 50 percent of the people not paying taxes? How about embedded entitlements growing every year, more people on welfare, more on disability ,more gaming the system. How about a corrupt FBI and DOJ(you may not agree with those two examples) How about immigration policy? How about many many people not trusting the government anymore and Congress having 13 percent approval. You dont consider this failure? Not gossip or hearsay. If you ran your business that way you would go under and have no customers. Government simply takes your money and spends it on your behalf. Do you really think they do it better than we would with our own money? Yes some things we cant do individually but government has an insatiable appetite for our money and doesnt do a good job at it. If you believe Government is successful then you are myopic. Some things are so absurd only an intellectual would believe them.

        • OK now..take it easy. I’m only going to do this once with you so here you go:

          1. Who’s going to cut debt? Bernie Sanders? Ha! I agree with you that this is a problem but I suspect you and I differ on how it should be dealt with.
          2. Really? You know you are parroting a myth common perpetuated in Republican circles? The myth you are referring to only references the “Federal Income Tax” and ignores the age and socioeconomic status of the citizenry.
          3. Providing for the common welfare is written into the Constitution. The word welfare is actually used in the preamble. It was important then and is important now. Some people might argue defense spending is equally a problem, but we must acknowledge that defense is also mentioned specifically in the constitution.
          4. Since when did the FBI and DOJ become corrupt? If you don’t believe in the legitimacy of these law enforcement bodies who do you trust? This country is a republic. If you don’t believe in law enforcement, you really need to take a step back and figure out where you’ve taken a wrong turn my friend. We must always validate with diligence those things that make us the most paranoid.
          5. Polling. I won’t hang my hat on that stuff, but it is fascinating. The consolidation of media and the increasing amount of foreign and corporate money in our political system has made the perception about government effectiveness go sour. Interesting enough is that in polling Democrats seem to think government is less corrupt then Republicans. This come with a catch 22 for Republicans. P. J. O’Rourke once cleverly wrote, “The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it.”
          6. Taxes happen. Sorry to burst your bubble there. The taxes get spent too. Don’t let it break your heart. Just make sure you vote for leaders with heart. So that when we do get taxed and those taxes get spent it goes into making our country a place of justice.
          7. I wouldn’t ask my government to be perfect. I’m not. So my expectations should be realistic, and not reflect the synergistic narratives of tragedians one might find on their favorite TV or radio stations. The TV is designed to coax people into making up their minds quickly. Careful deliberation is not what the conglomerates want out of the consumer. They prefer effective marketing.

          Live long and prosper my friend.

          • Vanadium you asked for Government failure and I answered. When the government cant live within its means that is a failure. Then you go rationalizing the failure. I want taxes, I want welfare but only for the intractably poor. I want justice and law and order but recently thelaws have not been followed by much of government. Do you want me to site cases? I want defense. I want government to lead and manage our money and you want to rationalize its incompetence. Your meliflous formalism doesnt cut it.

          • @Andrew : Rationalizing government is necessary to make it function better, accept that it’s humans at the desks. If you let government “do its thing” without paying attention, a fair chance problems will get worse.

  4. I think what needs to be said in defense of Solar, is sure the big oil companies are determined to hang on because hey it’s a lot of money and since our Political system is totally based on greed it is understandable. The thing everyone needs to keep in mind is Solar Power has two very important cost benefits, one is the environment is changing fast, anyone who does not think it is needs to go look at low lying areas on Islands and Coastlines of the world to see the Global Warming effects. All the Reefs of the world are dying and what is happening is the powerful waves from the Ocean are now able through Sea Level Rise to go over the top and hit the formerly protected shore with more power. The combination of higher water levels and the bleaching of the reefs by heat is killing the Coral and the result, the Reef is becoming lower and the Ocean higher is devastating to the Islands the Reef is protecting! People who just look at Solar as a strictly business proposition are blinded by dollar signs and are not seeing the full benefit of all that Solar can provide the Planet by not releasing more carbon into the atmosphere, and until our greedy President decided to help all his greedy friends in the oil industry get richer by putting a tariff on Solar Panels I was hoping to have some installed at my house, I hope I can still afford to do it to do my part in protecting our Planet because every little bit helps. Thanks, Chas.

  5. andrew, this is totally unfair the way these people are bullying you.
    The United States needs all the oil we can get.
    It is the basis of most of our salad dressings.
    This is something that our president truly understands.
    See levels rising? I just see that. I look at the ocean and I see a lot of water.
    However, ever since I was a kid, when I looked at the ocean I always saw a lot of water, so what’s the big deal?
    Let’s look at the word “tariff”
    When you break it down, it’s “tar” & “iff”.
    Iff we didn’t need the tar, we would’t need cars to run on the roads made of tar.
    Then we wouldn’t need the oil to put into the cars to make them go.
    By the way, I never understood all the big deal about oil.
    My car runs on gas, not oil,
    Anyway,
    Go Trump in 2020.

  6. Dondondon you have to chill out. I have told you many times that subsidies for oil should not happen. I was responding to the post that said it is ”patently false” to suggest oil companies are not profitable without subsidy. As for sea level rise if it happens we can adjust or just ask the Dutch to come and fix things since they did it years ago. When you wake up one day and leave MV and come to florida you will experience an average 20 degree increase in climate and I am sure you will adjust. As to the world–if the temperature increases by say three percent forever which it wont, I am sure people wont even realize it or wont be bothered by it. Saudi’s have been living in 100 degree weather forever and do quite nicely. As for those in Novosibirsk they will apreciate it being a bit warmer and they will also get better agricultural production. As for hidden costs—do you doomsdayers look at both sides of the ledger and quantify hidden advantages of temperature rising. I dont think so. Your ”shame on you” tactic is getting old. You rant about science all the time but science goes out the window when it comes to gender biology or a beating heart. There are places on this earth wherein a landed airplane wont shut down its engines before taking off again after taking on passengers because it is sooooo cold. they would love a little temperature gain. Besides all those rich people you dislike so much because they are part of the problem live on the coasts of MV and Nantucket–let their beach front erode and teach them a lesson.

  7. Andrew– Yes, you have stated many times that oil subsidies should not happen. But you vote for people who support them . You oppose subsidies for solar, and you vote for people who will (and did) cut them.
    your argument about it being warmer in Florida than here is more insulting and damaging to your argument than mine. It leads me to believe that Oaksbluff’s comment above is not satire– I am not underestimating the stupidity of trump supporters. And speaking of such things– you don’t really think we should employ the dutch to build a dike around the vineyard, do you ?
    And as far as the science goes– you are wrong on both counts– The concept that an individual gender is “assigned” at birth based on genitalia is unequivocally refuted by science. And that heartbeat you mention is no more valid than the quicken as a sign of viability. I will continue to shame you when you strive to bring our society to a primitive tribal level , and , I will praise you when you have rational thoughts that benefit our society–

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