May Infrastructure: incentivizing solar

At last month’s meeting of the CCTC Infrastructure Committee we heard from Austin Brandt, Power supply planner for the Cape Light Compact, about the EverSource Rate Case. He ended that meeting encouraging individuals and organizations to attend public hearings and submit written comments to the DPU. The Committee invited representatives from Eversource to attend but they were unable to do so.

Committee members at the May meeting agreed the main concern in the Rate Case for the Tech Council is the monthly minimum reliability contribution, which de-incentivizes solar and other alternative energy. As advocates for the application of technology in the region, we want to be encouraging innovation, not taxing it.

The committee discussed the need for EverSource to correctly identify changes they’ll see in reduced sales, building for peak usage, while facing declining revenue.

While we appreciate the complexity of the task that confronts Eversource, the committee hopes they’d avoid creating disincentives for innovative and alternative energy systems. We want them to have robust infrastructure, but at the same time are leery of policies that impede progress.

Other models were discussed, including how utility companies are handling this question in Germany and California. The committee believes the utilities would shrink as the need declines, reducing their size in response to the market. In the long conversation on Grid Modernization, the Committee’s concern is that there has not been enough emphasis on innovation or the shift to a smart grid. One lesson we have learned with Open Cape is that the utilities move when there is competition.

Unrelated to non net-metered customer charges, one member of the committee observed that most of the more affordable rental properties on the Cape run on electric heat. A rate increase for them is significant. Another committee member suggested the Cape as a beta test site for new ideas. If there was a way to present ourselves as a partner in progress, with a pilot project to help them see their own future, we could help utility companies achieve higher goals.

The infrastructure committee will put together a one page comment in support of incentivizing solar and alternative energy sources. This will be offered to the CCTC Board at their next meeting, in time for the May 31 end of public comment.

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