Our Opinion: Allow solar industry to shine on

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The solar industry in Massachusetts is bursting its caps, which are artificial restraints advocated by those with an interest in keeping the green power industry from thriving. Beacon Hill must act to allow solar to shine more brightly.

According to a report by the Environment Massachusetts Research and Policy Center, net metering is not only triggering greater use of solar energy but increases the effectiveness of the power grid as well. (Eagle, June 30). Net metering refers to the process by which solar power is sold to the grid at the retail rate, which is part of the financial formula to promote the growth of solar.

The amount of net-metered commercial solar power that can be produced is capped, however, to appease the fossil fuel industry and its advocates. As a result, the continued growth of the solar industry, so important to the Berkshires and the state as a whole, has been all but stopped. Solar energy advocates packed a House-Senate public hearing in Boston two weeks ago to testify to the injurious impact of the net metering caps.

The Research Policy Center report, which is based on analyses of the costs and benefits of solar power, and entitled "Shining Rewards: The Value of Rooftop Solar Power for Consumers and Society," makes a strong case for easing or lifting the restraints on solar. Its conclusion that solar delivers greater benefits than it receives through net metering argues that caps should be lifted to reduce the cost of energy and the pollution caused by fossil fuels. The report also notes that increased solar power will lessen the need for power plants and power lines, whose considerable construction and installation costs are passed down to consumers by utilities.

There are complaints that the solar industry is too heavily subsidized, but clean energy programs are subsidized worldwide, given their benefits, to encourage their development, and it is not as if the fossil fuel industry doesn't get economic breaks from government. The solar industry, thriving in the Berkshires until stymied by caps is of critical economic and environmental importance, and it has to be allowed to keep moving forward with a lifting, or at least an easing, of net metering caps.



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