Municipalities concerned about Eversource’s solar rate proposal

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The Department of Public Utilities is evaluating a petition from Eversource to increase its rates and change its rate structure.
 
Through its subsidiaries, NStar Electric and Western Massachusetts Electric Company, Eversource has 1.7 million customers in Massachusetts, including 1.4 million electric customers in 140 communities and 300,000 gas customers in 51 communities. The utility’s proposal would have an impact on municipal and residential electric bills. Stakeholders are also concerned that the proposal could have a serious negative effect on the future of solar projects in the Commonwealth.
 
Municipal officials from many communities argue that Eversource’s petition would reduce the value of net metering credits – payments from a utility to solar hosts for energy sold back to the grid – by up to 40 percent. The proposed rate restructuring would eliminate the rate that municipal net metered solar projects fall under and move these customers to a new rate, resulting in a decreased value for net metering credits.
 
Officials from Arlington, Lexington, Natick, Newton, Wayland, Weston and Westwood submitted comments to the DPU in May, urging the department to reject the rate change and, at a minimum, enforce the current rate for existing facilities. The communities estimate that they could lose a combined $32 million over the next 20 years if the proposed rate change goes into effect.
 
Eversource argues that the change is based on more factors than a simple reduction, and contends that the new rates will more accurately reflect the cost of providing electricity. But municipal officials are concerned that the change would have a detrimental effect on new and existing solar projects.
 
Five communities have recently been authorized to be interveners in the rate case. The communities have petitioned the DPU to grandfather net metering credit rates for existing solar projects and to postpone implementation of Eversource’s proposal so that a review of the proposal’s impact can be conducted.
 
In addition to increasing and restructuring rates, Eversource’s proposal includes an additional monthly minimum charge and a demand charge for some types of projects.
 
The MMA has previously weighed in before the Legislature and the DPU on the value of net metering credits and has opposed any additional fees or charges for those that have net metered facilities, arguing that communities are essential to helping the Commonwealth meet its renewable energy goals. The MMA has supported the most beneficial rates for municipal projects, and has written to the DPU to voice strong opposition to the Eversource proposal.
 
In 2016, Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation that preserved the retail rate for net metering credits for municipal and governmental projects.