Shining the light on utility’s solar stalling

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To the Editor:

Eversource is standing in the way of its customers trying to utilize solar energy, and currently is not approving solar systems over 15kW. Every solar panel that goes up on a home is money out of their pockets. Of course alternative energy is not in Eversource’s best interest. To accommodate and take full advantage of what solar and other alternative energy can offer as a solution, the outdated infrastructure on our grid needs to be upgraded immediately. 

Unfortunately, Eversource is stalling this process, and who could blame them? It’s a bad business model for customers to be able to produce their own electricity. We need to push them to do the right thing here. While the new green energy bill is a step in the right direction, without a grid that can handle solar installations that can allow homes to produce all or most of their energy, the bill has no teeth.

We reside in Edgartown, where we have lived, in the same house, for more than 30 years, and where we have raised our family. Several years ago, we became increasingly concerned about climate change, and we began efforts to conserve energy within our household. It has become obvious that our small efforts have a very limited impact, and we began researching the installation of solar panels. After discussions with Eversouce and as per their instructions, we retained a consultant to assess our needs and propose a system.

The company we are working with, Cotuit Solar, designed a 27kW system based on our property’s electrical usage. We secured a loan, and were ready to move forward in mid-April 2022.

As required, Cotuit sent the proposed system to Eversource for review ($300 fee). Eversource reviewed the system, and came back (90 days late) requesting us to pay $12,000 for them to perform upgrades to the grid in our neighborhood to proceed with the installation. Eversource commented that a smaller system might not have the same connectivity cost. They did not specify what size would fit their grid limitations.

Our only option was to resubmit an application for a smaller system and wait for Eversource’s review. We did just that, and Eversource replied to our second application (with an attendant additional $300 fee) saying our “application has been put on indefinite hold due to a Capital Investment Project under review by MA DPU.”

We are now faced with paying the loan off, and the electric bill, until the DPU and Eversource finish their review, complete their capital improvement project, and our solar installation is completed. Add to that Eversource’s application fee of $300 x 2 = $600 (ouch $). We have been given no timeline from Eversource or the DPU, only “indefinite,” which, after speaking with several professionals in the solar field, could be a few years.

Even after completion of the capital improvements under review by the DPU and Eversource, whenever that may occur, Cotuit Solar has been told that the end customer will still be responsible for paying large transformer and grid upgrades in some cases, if they wish to go solar.

This is a severe blow to people trying to take advantage of the recent green energy bill that passed, and it seems nonsensical that individual customers on the Cape and Islands should have to have to finance substandard Eversource equipment that they otherwise do not plan to update. We have spoken with a number of other residents who are experiencing the same dispiriting results. At no point were we ever advised that there were limits or ranges which would preclude our updating our respective systems.

While we understand Eversource’s need to have its equipment ready to handle alternative energy systems on its grid, it’s ridiculous that they are trying to pass these prohibitive costs on to individual consumers. Clearly there needs to be a better plan in place to make alternative energy a reality.

Global warming is not waiting, the world is on fire, storms are raging; the time is NOW to get moving toward a solution!

At the very least Eversource and the DPU should give us an estimate of their timeline, which has to be something better than “indefinite.” What I am seeking is a realistic and reasonable time frame (not just “indefinite”), and an assurance that there will not be further hidden costs and more application fees in completing this project.

We have a solar plan in place that will provide all the electricity my home needs. We have a contractor ready to install. We have secured a loan to fund it. We are ready to forge ahead; our only road block is Eversource and the DPU.

Michael and Sandy Benjamin
Edgartown