Monthly Archives: June 2012

9 posts

Green Energy Bill to be Debated by House

This morning, the House of Representatives gave initial approval to An Act Relative to Competitively Priced Electricity, a bill that aims to increase the amount of electricity that is produced through renewable means in Massachusetts.

One of the ways in which this piece of legislation would accomplish this goal is by encouraging more homeowners and businesses in the Commonwealth to generate their own electricity through solar, wind, or other renewable means. In order to create a greater incentive for home and business owners to start producing their own green electricity, this bill will raise the cap on the number of “net-metering” facilities that can be connected to the grid.

Net-metering is a system in which the owners of solar panels, wind turbines, or other intermittent generation facilities are connected to the grid and provide power to the grid when they use less electricity than they generate. With wind and solar, there are times when the customer will also draw from the grid to power their home or business. At the end of the month, the electricity produced and the electricity consumed are totaled and the net-consumption is what is billed by the utility. In cases where production exceeds consumption, the customer is considered a “net-exporter” of electricity and will be billed for 0 kW hours of electricity and receive a credit to their account.

Once the statewide cap on net-metering facilities is reached, net-metering credits will no longer be available and customers with their own electric production facilities will be required to pay for all of the energy that they use in the course of a month, regardless of how much they are able to put back into the grid. Once the cap is reached, the incentive for those considering purchasing renewable generators is severely diminished. Without net-metering, it will take someone who buys solar panels or a wind turbine for their home or business much longer to see a return on their investment.

And now, Massachusetts is dangerously close to the cap on net-metering. The cap is set for private customers at 1% of the electric grid’s historical peak output. That translates to about 51.3 megawatts. According to National Grid, the total capacity of all private net-metering facilities in Massachusetts is at 43.6 MW as of June 12.

While there is a cushion of more than seven megawatts of capacity before the cap is reached, the total capacity of all of the systems that are in the application process for connection to the grid under this cap is more than 300 MW. Competition for the last space under the cap makes renewable energy a risky investment for homeowners and businesses at a time when we should be encouraging it the most.

The bill that was released by the House Ways and Means Committee this morning takes a proactive step to correct this problem. It completely removes the net-metering cap on private customers that use their generators to offset the amount of load their property adds to the grid. This means that if a business or homeowner is considering adding solar or wind power equipment to their property, their risk is lowered and their opportunity for a return on their investment is substantially increased. This preserves net-metering as the financial incentive that it is meant to be.

This bill will also increase caps on net-metering for publicly-owned generation facilities and facilities that do not offset on-site load (solar and wind farms). The primary goal of these changes is to maximize the use of clean methods of producing electricity and minimize the use of oil and natural gas. The secondary goal is to create a sustainable industry that provides good jobs to workers in Massachusetts. Our state is uniquely positioned to become a global player in the fields of solar and wind power, and net-metering not only supports that industry financially, but generates interest and support for it among the general public.

I will be casting my vote in favor of this bill when it is considered by the full House of Representatives later this week. The impact of climate change will be one of the biggest challenges that we will face as Americans in this century. Updating our net-metering laws might be a small step forward for renewable energy, but it is a step in the right direction.



Obama Executive Order is a Step Forward for US Immigration Policy

I rarely use this blog as a platform to write about national policy issues, but I have always felt that immigration policy is one of the most direct ways the Federal Government influences life in our community.

Last week, President Obama announced a plan to grant temporary legal status to about 800,000 immigrants that are currently undocumented. Those affected will be immigrants who came to the United States before they turned 16. In most cases, these are undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States by their families. Many of these immigrants have not returned home since, and we can assume that some do not even speak the language of their country of origin. They are young people who call America their home, consider themselves American (even if they are not legal residents or citizens), and want to stay in this country, work, and build lives in America. These are people that simply want a chance to contribute in the same way that as their friends and neighbors who are citizens. President Obama has taken a strong step toward more sensible immigration policy by granting these young men and women temporary work status, and I applaud him for that.

For many years I have advocated for policies that assist the many immigrants that live in Cambridge, Somerville, and across Massachusetts. I have taken some unpopular positions in defense of undocumented immigrants and I have received my fair share of abuse for those positions, but this issue has never been about politics for me. It has always been about what is best for our community, and at the end of the day, doing what is right. There are thousands of young men and women in Massachusetts that could benefit from common-sense policies like in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrants, but time after time they find themselves among the population of people that is attacked first when times are tough or it is politically convenient to do so. I serve in a legislature where a number of my colleagues have tried to make life miserable for a small population of people because of their immigrant status. They forget that these people are our neighbors. They forget that we have a duty to do right by our neighbors and to lend them a helping hand without checking their immigration status first.

With that said, it is my hope that President Obama’s announcement last week will open up a renewed discussion about how America can achieve sensible, humane immigration policies. This will require us to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who are already here (that is fair to those who emigrate legally), and make it easier for migrants to come to the United States legally in the first place. In my capacity as a state legislator, I will continue to advocate for the immigrants in our community, and to pursue state policies that treat them with fairness and dignity.

In discussing this issue, we must keep in mind that this country as we know it was built by immigrants. America is great because of the achievements of immigrants that came here over many generations, and there is no sensible reason why this generation of immigrants should not have the opportunity to prosper in America as well.

Kendall Square Farmers’ Market and Concert Series

Information from Kendall Square Corporation about this summer’s farmers’ market:

Farmers Market @ Kendall Square

June through September
11 AM to 2 PM

Since 2007, Kendall Square Corporation has hosted its annual summer Farmers’ Market in the heart of Kendall Square.  Through the dedication of our vendors and the support of the entire community, the Farmers’ Market @ Kendall Square is showing no signs of slowing down!

People worldwide are rediscovering the benefits of buying local food. The Farmers’ Market @ Kendall Square offers locally grown, healthy, and affordable fresh food. Shop for fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, meats, fish and flowering plants from nearby farmers. Bring home some fresh baked bread or other bakery items for dinner. Sample specialty sauces, sweet treats, and other food items from local producers. New items arrive weekly!

Please visit the Farmers’ Market on Thursdays this summer in the South Plaza, right next to the Broad Canal.  From Third Street, turn onto Broad Canal Way and head past Za, Evoo, and KiKa Tapas.

For a complete list of farmers’ market  vendors, please visit the Kendall Square Corporation website.

And the Concert Series:

Concert Series @ Kendall Square

As the weather warms, join Kendall Square Corporation, for a series of FREE outdoor concerts at 300 Athenaeum Street, every Thursday from Noon to 1:30 PM, beginning in June lasting through September 6th. Thursday performances are co-sponsored by Berklee College of Music. Come listen to some of the areas most acclaimed musicians on our open air seated plaza.  Also join us Tuesday evenings in July from 4:30 – 6:00 pm for FREE concerts.

300 Athenaeum Street

related information:

2012 Performance Schedule