The Topline from MPG

Solar’s future’s so bright it’s gonna need shades

Governor Baker popped down the hall yesterday to testify in support of his administration’s bill lifting the cap on net metering for solar power projects. Net metering allows residents, businesses or municipalities to “sell back” solar power to the grid, lowering their electric bills, in some cases to the point where the power company actually owes them money. The aim of the policy is to provide an incentive for consumers to adopt solar power on their own properties, which in turn helps the state meet its goals of increasing renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

In pressing for net metering and more hydroelectric power, Baker is racing against time to find new sources of power to keep the state’s economy humming while keeping on track to meet climate change targets. Facing the loss of several coal plants and one (or possibly two) nuclear plants in the region, interminable delays on projects such as Cape Wind, and controversy over the proposed Kinder Morgan pipeline, easy solutions seem in short supply.

Polling suggests net metering, or anything to encourage solar, is likely to find a warm and sunny reception around the state. Voters are clear on what they want, and have remained consistent for the last few years. They strongly prefer renewable sources of energy over other options, and solar leads the way, according to MPG polling from 2014 and 2011. Natural gas and hydro are in the middle of the pack, with fossil fuels and nuclear trailing far behind. Solar’s shining reputation is not unique to Massachusetts voters. Both Gallup (in 2013) and Pew (in 2011) found solar as the energy source Americans are most eager to see developed.

Both in Massachusetts and around the country, people appear willing to put their money where their mouths are. In 2012, Gallup and Pew found Americans in favor of increased government spending on research into solar power and other renewables. In Massachusetts, majorities of voters have consistently said they would pay more on their power bills if it meant more renewable energy and less pollution.

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Meet The Authors

Rich Parr

Research Director, The MassINC Polling Group

Steve Koczela

President, The MassINC Polling Group

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