Attorney General Martha Coakley and Governor Deval Patrick agree to Develop Large Scale Utility-Backed Solar Power Projects
Proposed utility solar plan will reduce costs, spread benefits of renewable energy across the Commonwealth
"Development of solar generation through a statewide pool will drive down costs through economies of scale and spread the costs and benefits across the broadest base of customers," said Attorney General Coakley.
"Solar power is a key component of our clean energy future," said Governor Deval Patrick. "I am delighted to work with Attorney General Coakley on an innovative new model to bring renewable energy - and the jobs that come with it - across the state at the lowest cost possible."
The Green Communities Act - comprehensive energy reform legislation enacted in 2008 - allows each of the four investor-owned utilities in Massachusetts until the end of 2012 to develop up to 50 megawatts (MW) of solar PV generating capacity. Given disparities in geographic area and customer base between the four utilities - NSTAR, National Grid, Unitil/Fitchburg Gas & Electric, and Western Massachusetts Electric Co. - the Attorney General's Office has agreed to work with the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA), and its Department of Energy Resources (DOER), to identify a unified and streamlined mechanism to serve consumers in all four service territories and develop the most cost competitive solar projects. That plan will need to be approved by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU).
By statute, the Attorney General's Office serves as ratepayer advocate in proceedings before the DPU. In June, the Attorney General's Office responded to Western Massachusetts Electric Company's (WMECo) proposal to develop solar generation, the first of its kind under the Green Communities Act, by raising the statewide pooling concept as a way to provide more solar power generation to a wider customer base at lower cost. As part of a settlement reached in June between WMECo and the Attorney General's Office and supported by DOER, WMECo will deploy 6 MW of solar power while agreeing to explore the statewide pool for future development.
"Governor Patrick has made solar power a top priority and last year's landmark energy reform legislation gave the Commonwealth new tools to make sure it gets deployed rapidly," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles. "Through this important partnership with the Attorney General, the ratepayers and the electric utilities will see a race to develop the best, lowest-cost large scale installations. This is a novel approach and I'm confident it will accelerate clean energy development in the Commonwealth."
Under the proposal, a new joint entity would be responsible with identifying, developing and financing large scale solar power generation projects in the territories of the four investor-owned utilities. Instead of each utility developing new infrastructure to deliver its solar goals in its own service territory, the new joint venture would be charged with developing the most cost competitive projects statewide through a series of procurements for large-scale (100kW or larger) projects. The competitive procurement process will identify the most cost-effective projects for solar PV installation on commercial and industrial rooftops, municipal and state facilities, and other sites suitable for solar energy development. These procurements will build current experience being developed with bulk procurements for up to 25MW of solar power projects by DOER with funding under the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). DOER and industry experts expect these bulk procurements to continue to drive down the installed cost of solar power.
"The goal is to drive down the installed cost of solar power," said DOER Commissioner Philip Giudice. "As the industry grows, we will get better prices. The more we do, the less we pay."