Administration tinkers with auction rules for subsidies
THE BAKER ADMINISTRATION, which favors keeping a cap in place on one solar subsidy program, is now tinkering with another solar price support.
State officials say they plan to change the way a key solar subsidy is auctioned to curb price speculation by hedge funds and Wall Street firms. Judith Judson, the commissioner of the state Department of Energy Resources, estimates the changes in auction rules will save electricity ratepayers at least $20 million a year.
“We think if there’s an opportunity to save $20 million and keep moving forward on our clean energy goals, we’re going to pursue it,” Judson said in a telephone interview.
But critics of the move say the change is being carried out with no public debate and may actually increase electricity rates rather than lower them. The critics also say the latest move is another sign that concern among utility executives about the high cost of solar power is driving policy within the Baker administration.
Elise Zoli, an attorney at Goodwin Procter who represents clean tech clients, urged Judson in a letter to withdraw the new auction rules. She said the changes will lead to auctions “dominated and controlled by retail electric suppliers, to the exclusion of financial, environmental, and solar sector participants.” She said restricting the number of bidders at the auction could lead to lower prices for solar credits and less income for solar developers.
Solar power in Massachusetts receives two major state subsidies. One subsidy, called a net metering credit, is provided for each megawatt hour of solar electricity fed into the power grid. The other is a solar renewable energy credit, or SREC, which is awarded to developers for each megawatt hour of solar electricity they produce. Both subsidies are paid for by the state’s electric utilities and passed along to their customers through their bills.