Sixty-Seven Massachusetts Solar Businesses Call for Federal Action on Global Warming, Clean Energy

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Environment Massachusetts

BOSTON – As a state task force prepares to discuss the future of solar energy in Massachusetts, solar businesses, community leaders, and state officials gathered today in support of the Clean Power Plan, a U.S. EPA proposal to limit the amount of carbon pollution from power plants and encourage investment in clean energy. Environment Massachusetts released a letter signed by 67 Massachusetts solar business leaders, and 540 solar business leaders nationally, expressing their support for federal action to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector.

“Massachusetts has long been a leader in the fight against global warming, and it’s great to see that the rest of the nation is poised to follow our example with the adoption of the Clean Power Plan,” said Ben Hellerstein, Campaign Organizer for Environment Massachusetts. “Thanks to strong support from state officials, solar power in Massachusetts has grown by leaps and bounds. The Clean Power Plan will help accelerate the growth of solar energy across the country and clean up the biggest sources of U.S. carbon emissions.”

The letter comes as Massachusetts prepares to name a Net Metering Task Force that will review the state’s solar policies and make recommendations for how to promote the continued expansion of solar energy. At the end of the legislative session 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.

Since 2006, solar energy has grown more than 150-fold in Massachusetts, reaching 664 megawatts of installed capacity as of October 1, 2014. According to a study by the Solar Foundation, Massachusetts’ solar industry employed 6,400 people in 2013, an increase of 42% from the previous year.

In August, Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center released a report, Lighting the Way, showing that the top states for solar energy are not necessarily those with the most sunshine, but those with the most supportive state-level solar policies. As a result of strong support from state leaders, Massachusetts is ranked sixth in the nation for total installed solar. In 2013, Massachusetts added more solar capacity to the grid than all but three other states.

“As a Massachusetts solar company, we know firsthand how support from state officials has helped Massachusetts become a national leader for solar energy,” said Jim Elkind, CEO of New England Clean Energy. “Because solar is now accessible for all, and because it provides environmental, economic and financial benefits for everyone, it can and should be a major contributor to achieving the goals in the Clean Power Plan.”

To address the growing threat of climate change, the EPA proposed its Clean Power Plan in June. The plan would reduce emissions from the U.S. power sector by 30% by 2030. America’s power plants are major contributors to climate change on a global scale: the 50 dirtiest power plants in the United States emit more carbon each year than the entire country of South Korea.

The plan is open for public comment until December 1st and could be finalized by next year. States will have flexibility in determining how to meet emissions reductions under the Clean Power Plan, and the EPA expects solar and wind energy, as well as energy efficiency, to play a major role in meeting the targets.

“I’m proud to be part of a growing movement to bring clean, renewable energy to as many people as possible,” said Katherine Fisher, Chief Business Development Officer for Great Sky Solar. “Solar energy is growing rapidly in Massachusetts, and if we keep it up — with support from the Clean Power Plan and other state and federal policies — we’ll see even more benefits for our environment and our economy.”

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 capped landfills, schools, and other public buildings.

“In the last few years, Massachusetts has become a national leader for solar energy,” said State Representative Frank I. Smizik (Brookline). “We should do everything we can to keep solar growing in our state. That’s why I sponsored legislation this year to expand Massachusetts’ successful net metering program, and why I’m glad the EPA is moving forward with its Clean Power Plan to cut carbon emissions and promote clean energy across the country.”

The event was held at the Artists for Humanity EpiCenter, home to one of the earliest rooftop solar installations in Boston. Artists for Humanity is a nonprofit organization that provides opportunities for under-resourced youth to learn skills and gain employment in the arts.

“As an organization that helps urban youth build self-sufficient and creative lives, sustainability is a core part of our mission,” said Susan Rodgerson, Executive/Artistic Director of Artists for Humanity. “Solar energy has been a great way for us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and engage our teen artists in learning about the environment. We hope the EPA’s Clean Power Plan will help more nonprofits, businesses, and individuals across the country to go solar.”

Environment Massachusetts and its affiliates across the country recruited more than 500 solar business leaders to sign the letter, which was delivered to the White House.

“In Massachusetts, we can get at least 20% of our energy from the sun by 2025,” said Hellerstein. “With continued leadership from state and federal officials, combined with innovation and hard work from the solar business community, we can build a cleaner, greener future powered by the sun.”