Victory for Massachusetts solar consumers in rate decision
Today, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities decided to uphold fair rates for residential and small commercial businesses in the state. The DPU also voted to reject a proposal to charge community solar, government, and other solar projects a new monthly fee.
The petition to increase consumer utility rates and introduce additional fees on solar projects was brought by Massachusetts Electric Company and Nantucket Electric Company, operating jointly as National Grid. The petition would have fundamentally changed the structure of fixed charges that residential and small commercial customers must pay each month.
“Customers in Massachusetts – including households, small businesses and local institutions that depend on community solar to lower their utility bills – can breathe a sigh of relief today knowing that they won’t be penalized for generating clean, homegrown power,” said Nathan Phelps, program manager of DG regulatory policy at Vote Solar. “Today’s decision rejects punitive fees and affirms what we’ve already known – clearing the way for clean, local solar generation is in the public interest.”
“The Commission’s decision today vindicates a foundational principle of utility ratemaking—that a utility has to prove the costs it seeks to recover. The public interest requires it,” said Hannah Chang, staff attorney at Earthjustice. “We commend the Commission for not condoning National Grid’s unsubstantiated efforts to pin costs on clean, renewable energy.”
National Grid had proposed raising the fixed customer charge – the charge that every customer must pay before they use any electricity in a given month – from $4 to upwards of $20 for residential customers, and from $10 to upwards of $30 for small commercial customers. The decision approved by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities only increases the fixed customer charge to $5.50 for residential customers. “We are extremely happy that the Department of Public Utilities found National Grid’s proposal did not meet the rate design goals of the Commonwealth and that National Grid did not demonstrate any cost-shift from non-solar customers to solar customers” said Nathan Phelps.
Additionally, National Grid had proposed a monthly fee on the types of clean renewable energy projects that serve communities and governmental entities. The fee would have greatly reduced – and potentially eliminated – the benefits that communities and governmental entities receive from local sources of clean energy. The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities rejected this proposal because National Grid did not quantify the additional costs that these systems allegedly are not paying to National Grid.
Vote Solar is a non-profit organization working to foster economic development and energy independence by bringing solar energy to the mainstream nationwide. Learn more at www.votesolar.org
Earthjustice, the nation’s premier nonprofit environmental law organization, wields the power of law and the strength of partnership to protect people’s health, to preserve magnificent places and wildlife, to advance clean energy, and to combat climate change. Because the earth needs a good lawyer.