Department of Public Utilities Approves Second Utility Solar Power Plan under Green Communities Act
National Grid will construct facilities to generate approximately 5 MW of solar power, contributing to Governor Patrick's solar power goal of 250 MW by 2017
National Grid's solar projects are planned for locations in Dorchester, Everett, Haverhill, Revere, and on the Sutton/Northbridge border.
"Governor Patrick's goal to increase installation of solar power in Massachusetts to 250 megawatts by 2017 is ambitious, but achievable. Already, the Commonwealth is on pace for at least 40 megawatts by the end of 2010 - up from less than 4 MW when the Governor took office," DPU Chairman Paul Hibbard said. "The approved National Grid plan moves us closer to that goal, while protecting ratepayers."
Designed to promote the development of renewable energy and stimulate the Commonwealth's clean energy economy, the Green Communities Act gave utility companies the ability to own and operate solar electric installations up to 50 MW. Just as utilities bill customers for the cost of fossil-fuel generated electricity, the cost of utility-owned solar power will be recouped through ratepayer revenues.
Once fully operational by the end of 2010, National Grid's solar projects will contribute to the local supply of renewable power, helping the Commonwealth meet its Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requirements. Established as part of the utility restructuring act in 1997, the RPS is designed to diversify the state's electricity supply portfolio and create market demand to spur the development of renewable power. It requires retail electricity suppliers to purchase a certain amount of RPS-eligible energy (through Renewable Energy Certificates) as a percentage of the power they sell to consumers. The Green Communities Act accelerated the rate of increase in the RPS from 0.5 percent per year to 1 percent annually, with no cap. As a result, utilities and other electricity suppliers are required to obtain renewable power equal to 4 percent of sales this year, rising to 15 percent in 2020 and upward from there.
The DPU order cited the benefits of National Grid's solar proposal, which include producing electricity without emissions, thus avoiding future costs to electric consumers associated with the control of greenhouse gas emissions; stimulating market forces in creating additional solar generation in the Commonwealth; and producing valuable information on the costs and benefits of installing solar generation facilities in Massachusetts.
The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) ensures that Massachusetts utility ratepayers receive the most reliable service at the lowest possible cost. The DPU protects the rights of residential utility customers; oversees the siting of power-generating facilities; controls utility company prices and profits while monitoring service quality; and regulates the safety of natural gas pipelines and rail and bus transportation.