Where is the cap on fossil fuels?
Recent polling has shown that more than 80% of Massachusetts residents believe that climate change is a real concern and that we need to seriously reduce our dependence on fossil fuels … so it is a truly brilliant public relations strategy by pro-utility legislators to put solar and renewables into a rationing program like Net Metering and confusing revolving door incentive programs, while fossil fueled electricity generators get away with no quotas or even any serious penalty for poisoning our environment and threatening public health.
Our Governor recently stated that he wants to wean solar off net metering “subsidies” and reduce solar investment incentives. Solar owners need not only correct those who call net metering a “subsidy” when in fact it is a payment for green renewable energy that is sold to other utility customers, we also need to demand that it be “valued” at an established rate set by a non-biased independent study as opposed to a de-facto unsubstantiated “retail rate” … and not devalue the solar electrons whether they are generated from a residence, business, municipality, or community solar farm. Second, we need to demand that instead of capping in-state produced solar electric to the grid, the legislature should instead set a cap on the amount of fossil fuel generated and imported electricity … including hydro from Canada.
MASOA would go further to propose the Legislature reverse the damage to human health and our environment, and Massachusetts impose a cap on fossil fuels as the core of the new “Omni-Energy Bill” legislation DeLeo has been announcing since the fall of 2015. Using the COP21 Paris model, choose a past year where carbon levels were still acceptable, say 2005, and limit the fossil fuel imports to the state as a cap in terms of therms, without lifting any current restrictions on coal or oil. Beginning in 2016 reduce that amount of therms by 10% allowed under the cap. Each successive year would require continue the reduction of fossil therms by 5%. In turn the cap on renewables would not only be lifted, but the penalty [tariff] for importing fossil energy therms over the cap would fund renewable investment incentives. Renewable [solar] generated electricity would, as the Governor likes to say “mature,” so that it is valued by virtue of increasing demand.
There would be far greater positive results reversing our dependence on fossil fuels instead of reversing our progress in solar energy. It is time to institute caps on fossil fuels and remove the caps on solar now. Future buildings would be incentivized to maximize zero energy use, the demand for electric cars would increase, geo-thermal heating/cooling, solar and all renewable businesses would grow employing thousands of people. Like any addiction, fossil fuel will not be easy to turn away from, especially with the street price so low, however we are rational beings, we have created government to guide us … now is the time to legislate us on a path to a clean energy future and a sustainable environment.
Chris Smith is a founder and Chair of the Massachusetts Solar Owners Association (MASOA). This piece originally appeared on MASOA's website.