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Pilgrim Closure Creates Opportunity to Boost Renewable Energy Production

Photograph by Joanne DeCaro, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Photograph by Joanne DeCaro, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The announcement last month of Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station’s closure, the only nuclear power plant in Massachusetts, is a great opportunity to increase the amount of electricity the Commonwealth generates from renewable energy sources. Pilgrim is the source of 14% of all of the power produced in Massachusetts and we need to make up that capacity with clean, renewable sources like wind energy and solar power.

The Commonwealth is a nationally recognized clean energy leader because we have made a clear legislative effort to grow our green energy sector in order to meet our Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) goals, which requires a 25% reduction in Greenhouse Gas emissions by 2020 and an 80% reduction by 2050. Earlier this year, I joined many of my colleagues in asking the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy to pass comprehensive energy legislation by the end of the 2015-16 legislative session. This is a big issue on Beacon Hill right now, and I know that Chairmen Downing and Golden and the rest of the Committee are working diligently to develop a robust energy policy that would allow the Commonwealth to meet its GWSA goals.

However, in the interim, it’s vital for our solar power sector that we lift the cap on net metering immediately. The state’s 2007 solar incentive program has made Massachusetts a national leader in solar energy with more than 1,000 solar companies producing power to as many as 133,000 homes while employing 12,000 people, but a cap on financial credits given to solar power producers is currently stalling the production of additional solar facilities across the Commonwealth.

If we don’t raise this cap, the Commonwealth’s solar industry risks long-term setbacks and could lose millions of dollars through the federal Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC) program, which expires on December 31, 2016. Although this deadline is a little over a year away, being connected to the electric grid is required to qualify for the ITC, and solar power developers estimate that they need to secure financing within the next three months in order to start and complete construction by next year’s deadline.

Growing the solar power sector will create jobs and is an important part of the Commonwealth’s retreat from fossil fuel dependency.