Yesterday, Environment Massachusetts released a new report called Shining Cities: At the Forefront of America’s Solar Energy Revolution, which ranks our nation’s top solar cities. The top 5 by total installed capacity are certainly known for their sunshine: Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, San Jose and Honolulu. But there are plenty of non-traditional solar leaders that make the top 20: Indianapolis, New Orleans, Denver and our long-time target of New York all rank among our nation’s solar leaders.
The release specifically highlighted two bright spots from Massachusetts: Boston ranked 3rd among major cities in the northeast and New Bedford is a leader among smaller cities. The report was released at an event in front of the Joseph M. Tierney Learning Center at the Old Colony Housing Project in South Boston, surrounded by affordable housing units topped with solar panels.
“We are thrilled to be recognized as a national leader in solar power,” said Brian Swett, Chief of Environment, Energy and Open Space for the City of Boston. “Mayor Walsh wants to build on this success and continues to support new initiatives to encourage the widespread adoption of solar power and other renewable energy technologies in Boston.”
“New Bedford’s renewable power program is strengthening our City’s economy, our education system, and our environment, while saving taxpayers considerable money in the years ahead,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell of New Bedford. “Every city in America should be doing what we are doing here in New Bedford, and I could not be prouder of the creativity, commitment, and teamwork of all those here who helped us reach our goals.”
Why the focus on Mass? Local governments in the Bay State state are currently facing a particular challenge to continued solar growth – they’re running into a cap on one of their most important solar programs: net metering.
Net metering gives renewable energy customers full, fair credit on their utility bills for the excess clean power they deliver to the grid. This program means that schools are going solar to save on their power bills and direct precious limited resources to the classroom. It means that cities and counties are leading their communities on clean energy while keeping budgets in check. It means that Massachusetts is reducing the need for expensive and polluting power plants and grid infrastructure, which in turn means savings for all of the state’s energy customers.
But Massachusetts law places a cap on net metering participation, after which utilities are no longer required to offer this important customer right to new non-residential solar energy customers including the local government leaders Environment Massachusetts celebrated today. We’re working with a coalition of stakeholders including Environment Massachusetts, Boston Community Capital, SEIA and the MassEnergy Consumers Alliance to keep solar shining in the Commonwealth. We are urging the legislature to act quickly to pass S.2019 / H.3901, a bill that would raise the cap on net metering participation, and to reject legislation that would undercut the program. If you live in Massachusetts, you can add your support here.
And no matter where you call home, let your policymakers know that you support solar progress. Forward-thinking cities nationwide are benefiting from smart state and local policies that encourage solar investment and job growth.