New report: Massachusetts could get 20% of its electricity from the sun within ten years

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Ben Hellerstein

Former State Director, Environment Massachusetts

Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center

Boston – As Governor-Elect Charlie Baker prepares to take office, Environment Massachusetts Research & Policy Center released a new report today showing that Massachusetts could get 20% of its electricity from the sun by 2025. Environmental advocates, solar business leaders, and local officials urged the Baker administration to set its sights high for solar.

“Solar energy in Massachusetts is growing rapidly, but there’s so much more we can do,” said Ben Hellerstein, campaign organizer for Environment Massachusetts. “Governor-Elect Baker can become a national leader for clean energy by putting Massachusetts on a path to 20% solar by 2025. It’s hard to imagine a better way for us to protect our environment and grow our economy at the same time.”

The report, Star Power: The Growing Role of Solar Energy in Massachusetts, shows that solar energy has grown by 127% per year in Massachusetts over the last three years. If solar energy continues to grow by at least 30% per year, Massachusetts will be on track to meet 20% of its electricity needs from solar power by 2025.

The report found that achieving this target would cut as much carbon pollution as 1.2 million cars emit in a year.

“Cambridge is proving that solar energy is for everyone,” said Rich Rossi, City Manager for the City of Cambridge. “Through the Cambridge Energy Alliance, we’ve made solar power accessible to residents of all income levels and backgrounds, as well as businesses and nonprofits. And because we believe that local government should lead by example, we’ve installed solar panels on several of our municipal buildings and continue to look for more opportunities to add to municipal solar installations.”

According to the latest solar jobs census from the Solar Foundation, the solar industry employed more than 6,400 people in Massachusetts in 2013 — an increase of 42% from the previous year.

“The solar industry in Massachusetts is ready to take solar to the next level,” said Mark Sandeen, founder of RePower Partners. “We hear from homeowners, businesses, and nonprofit organizations every day who want to go solar, and with support from Governor-Elect Baker and other state leaders, I’m confident we can get to 20% solar by 2025.”

The report quantifies the state’s enormous solar energy potential using data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. More than 700,000 rooftops in Massachusetts have the potential to accommodate solar panels.

Earlier this fall, Environment Massachusetts delivered a letter signed by 67 Massachusetts solar business owners to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, encouraging the agency to move forward with its proposed Clean Power Plan to cut carbon emissions from the power sector. The report released today shows that Massachusetts could meet three-quarters of its emissions reduction goal under the Clean Power Plan by achieving 20% solar power.

“In Massachusetts, we’re seeing the effects of climate disruption all around us,” said Drew Grande, Beyond Coal Organizer for the Sierra Club. “Solar is a key part of how we’re going to cut our carbon pollution and move towards clean energy in Massachusetts, and we’re hopeful that the Baker administration will put our state on a path towards 20% solar by 2025.”

In Massachusetts, state policies and programs — including net metering, the SREC or “solar carve-out” program, and Solarize Mass — have supported the rapid expansion of solar energy. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Energy Resources have worked with communities across the state to bring solar installations to homes, businesses, affordable housing developments, capped landfills, schools, and other public buildings.

In July, the Legislature passed a bill that provided for a temporary expansion of Massachusetts’ successful net metering program, but did not resolve questions over the long-term future of the program. The legislation established a Net Metering and Solar Task Force, and directed the task force to review the state’s solar policies and make recommendations for how to promote the continued expansion of solar energy.

The first task force meeting took place on November 13, and the task force’s final recommendations to the legislature are due on March 31, 2015.

“There’s a simple way for Governor-Elect Baker to step up as a national leader on clean energy and support thousands of Massachusetts jobs: set a goal of 20% solar by 2025,” said Hellerstein. “The benefits to our environment and our economy are too good to pass up.”