Legislation

7 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.

 

 

Cambridge Leads the Way with Energy Efficiency Legislation

Cambridge Energy Alliance
1385 Cambridge St, Cambridge map

This month the Governor signed an important piece of legislation into law for the City of Cambridge: House Bill 1916 (pdf, text), An Act relative to the provision of services to the City of Cambridge by the Cambridge Energy Alliance. I filed this Home Rule petition, sent to the state by my colleagues on the Cambridge City Council, along with cosponsors Senator Galluccio, and Cambridge Reps. William Brownsberger, Jonathan Hecht, Marty Walz, and Alice Wolf.

H.1916 was enacted by both House and Senate on November 30th, then signed by Governor Patrick on Dec 4th. The bill, now in Chapter 170 of the General Laws of 2009, will go into effect on March 4th, 90 days after being signed into law. It establishes a minor exception to public procurement laws that enables Cambridge to enter into a contract with the nonprofit Cambridge Energy Alliance.

The contract will be used to support energy efficient initiatives municipal buildings, businesses, and residents in Cambridge.

The Cambridge Energy Alliance was co-founded by the city with the explicit intent of finding and implementing innovative, creative ways to cut down our energy usage and costs. Their work helps businesses, residents and government organizations in Cambridge save money and proactively work towards a more energy efficient future for the city.

I would urge Cambridge residents to reach out the the CEA to find out ways they may be able to help you with your heating bills and your energy usage. The services are cost-efficient and could be free or subsidized depending on your financial situation. More information, from their website:

CEA offers:

  • Comprehensive energy audits for Cambridge buildings, generally for free
  • Up to 30% reductions in energy bills
  • Energy efficiency upgrades with no up front cash required
  • A one-stop energy solution

2007-2008 Formal Legislative Session Update

At the end of July, the House and the Senate wrapped up the 2007-2008 formal session with a list of legislative accomplishments that will help to significantly improve our state’s economy, environment, health care system and aging infrastructure.

The extent of our broad-reaching achievements in the legislature is in part thanks to our new Governor Deval Patrick – it is great to again have a democratic partner in the executive office to help us work towards a better Massachusetts for all citizens across the state.

The following sections detail highlights of important bills and spending initiatives passed and signed into law during the 2007-2008 Formal Legislative Session:

In the increasingly difficult and unstable fiscal climate, it is now more important than ever to the residents of Cambridge and Somerville that their elected officials on Beacon Hill are working to ensure their safety, the quality of their schools and hospitals, their economic stability, the sustainability of their environment and their quality of life. I’m proud to say at the end of the 2007-2008 formal legislative session that we have taken significant steps to address each of these areas, and that the productive efforts of the legislature will have a positive and meaningful impact on the citizens of our communities for many years to come.

From the Green Communities Act to the Child Abuse and Neglect Bill, from the Environmental, Housing and Transportation Bond Bills to the Municipal Partnership Act and increased local aid and Chapter 70 school aid, the wide range of initiatives signed into law over the past year and a half will benefit children, families, taxpayers and municipalities throughout the commonwealth.

I would like to thank the hundreds of people who called, emailed, and wrote in over the last year for making your voice heard on these important issues in the state and in our district. Please feel free to look through this legislative update and contact my office if you have any further questions or to let me know about your priorities going forward into the next session.