Gov. Ned Lamont is backing clean solar power as an important way to address two economic goals: creating good-paying jobs and lowering energy costs for commercial and residential ratepayers to get our economy moving again.
He is addressing the voter mandate to combat the most pressing issue of our time — climate change. He has set substantial, aggressive renewable energy targets for 2030 and 2050.
Achieving these goals requires regulatory policies that enable the many in-state solar development companies to have enough certainty to invest in resources needed to build their businesses and attract outside infrastructure investment. These solar developers also need to be able to structure their installed solar facilities with a predictable level of ratepayer savings and set realistic consumer expectations about how the transition away from fossil fuels to sustainable energy will benefit them.
A law passed in 2018, “An act concerning Connecticut’s energy future,” changed Connecticut’s regulatory policy. It eliminated net-metering, which is a widely used, proven policy that fosters renewable energy growth. With net-metering, when a solar facility generates more energy than is needed during daylight, the excess is credited to the host’s account at the standard electric retail price. But at night or during bad weather, that same customer will be able to use that credit, also at the retail price, to offset energy from the grid, thereby saving money.
The 2018 law does away with this net-metering program altogether, making solar power or energy storage economically unviable.
When net-metering was eliminated in their states, Maine, Nevada, and Maryland saw their solar industries collapse in less than a year. Hundreds of good-paying jobs disappeared, and fast. Those states are now trying to reverse the damage by going back to net-metering.
The 2018 law repeats that mistake, forfeiting job creation and lower energy bills for ratepayers. Why should Connecticut adopt policies that have failed in other states? We should follow policies that are boosting the solar industry in neighboring states, such as Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey.
If the law is not changed now to return to a policy that includes net-metering, Connecticut will see a big loss in its 2,200 solar jobs and a loss in lower energy bills for ratepayers.
Some supporters of the law claim that net-metering might shift additional costs onto non-solar users. These same supporters have not offered a single piece of quantitative analysis to prove their claims. This is unproven and unlikely while the penetration of solar installations is low. It will take five to 10 years before any form of cost shift would be a legitimate concern. (Penetration of solar in Connecticut is under 2 percent.)
Going forward, we must:
· Maintain net-metering policies to provide a solar-friendly climate.
· Learn from the experience of other states — successes such as Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey and failures such as Maine, Nevada and Maryland.
· Establish a thorough analysis of real world data to determine the value of solar to all parties: solar energy users, non-solar users, electric utilities, and the state economy. It is estimated that such an analysis will require up to three years to complete.