Boston – State Senator Mike Barrett (D-Lexington) and Representative Thomas A. Golden, Jr. (D-Lowell) quizzed Eversource Energy and the state Department of Public Utilities (DPU) at a formal oversight hearing last Tuesday, January 30.
Senate Chair Barrett joined House Chair Golden and their colleagues on the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy at the public hearing, following the DPU’s approval of a request from Eversource for a new fee on solar users.
In 2016, legislation was passed requiring homeowners with solar installations on their property to pay a minimum contribution towards the upkeep costs of the power grids. However, the DPU’s unexpected decision to opt for a cumbersome ‘non-coincident demand charge’ — estimated to cost nearly $200 a year per customer — caught the Legislature by surprise, especially given the availability of more mainstream alternatives.
Without advanced electricity meters — which are not currently being offered by the utilities — customers with solar installations will have no way of knowing when they might cut back on their personal consumption and save themselves money.
“Any minimum demand charge should motivate consumers to reduce their energy use at the times the overall system is under stress.” Senator Barrett said. “This complex ‘non-coincident’ charge fails the test.”
Barrett expressed concern that the new rate charge comes at a time when the Trump Administration is waging a “war on solar”, shrinking tax credits for solar installations and imposing high tariffs on imported solar panels.
In the wake of the hearing, legislators are drafting a bill that would delay implementation of Eversource’s MMRC for two years and require the utility to offer smart metering equipment to customers before hitting them with an MMRC.