My family and I own and operate a fourth-generation dairy farm in Dracut. Earlier this year, as we worked to maintain the farm for future generations, we decided to install solar power.
Many small business owners like me want solar power, not just because it’s sustainable or green, although that is certainly a benefit. We want solar because it helps keep costs down by providing a hedge against uncertainty in electricity prices. Just in the last five years, more than 1,000 businesses in the commonwealth have installed solar arrays. This is not do-goodism; it is simply logical decision making by bringing down energy costs and injecting more predictability into our operations.
Unfortunately, today’s solar market in Massachusetts is anything but predictable, and my efforts to move forward with the project have stalled. For the fourth time in the last five years the state has hit the legislated limit on net metering, the key policy that allows solar customers to sell their power back to the grid at the same rate utilities charge us when we buy power from them. Businesses like ours, eager to make a long-term investment in solar, are now stuck trying to guess what lawmakers on Beacon Hill will do next.
The Baker administration says it wants to wean incentives, and will only fix this limit if a permanent, sustainable solar- incentive program is implemented — one that supports solar growth at the least cost to ratepayers.
Lawmakers are right to re-examine the solar-incentives structure to ensure that the commonwealth is encouraging the growth of solar in the most efficient, cost-effective fashion. However, businesses need to make long-term investments. Regardless of what the state’s future solar-policy framework looks like, the administration and the Legislature must assure the market-business people like myself, as well as municipal officials and residents, that the market is not put on hold for months or years and that there is a clear, predictable path forward that allows us to invest in solar for our own energy needs.
Our family business, along with thousands of other businesses across Massachusetts, has learned that solar energy is a powerful tool for managing what for many is a sizable expense. The Baker administration should do its level best to bring clarity to this problem and lift the net metering caps as soon as possible, so that we can continue to use this cost-saving tool to grow our businesses and the state’s economy at the same time.