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Updated: November 27, 2023 Viewpoint

Viewpoint: Community solar needs better data sharing

The Mass. community solar program is thriving, but consumer protection concerns may prevent the program from reaching new heights. The inconsistency in the way electric utilities Eversource and National Grid share community solar subscriber data creates an unnecessary friction and limits the ability for subscribers to maximize savings. The success of any community solar program requires data transparency, so community solar subscriber managers, like PowerMarket, can ensure participants are realizing monthly savings.

Jason Kaplan, COO and general counsel at PowerMarket

Community solar is a great product and a no-brainer for any business or household that doesn’t want rooftop solar, but still wants utility bill savings through local, renewable energy. There is no on-site installation, no change in how energy is supplied or delivered, and no cost to join or cancel. As a result, nearly everyone can sign up for a project and pay less for electricity.

Against the backdrop of high prices and increasing electricity demand, significant growth is taking center stage. Is Mass. ready to capitalize on it? Not until the Department of Public Utilities implements some changes.

Community solar providers do not receive the same data from local utilities about subscriber usage, which is needed to maximize people’s savings. While National Grid has updated its reports to share critical data, such as bill charges, credit balance, and monthly usage, Eversource does not. Today, if a customer purchases an electric vehicle, installs a heat pump or electric stove, or makes any other changes to their electricity usage, this more permanent change in monthly electricity consumption will not be accounted for until we’re updated.

The responsibility should not be on customers to report this data to their community solar providers. Rather, usage and bill spend information should simply be a standard part of the reports utilities already share on a monthly basis. This current inconsistency negatively impacts customers, solar developers, and providers of community solar services.

We call on DPU to require all utilities to implement the community solar program consistently, including the production of subscriber usage and bill spend data with community solar providers on an ongoing monthly basis. We hope others across the energy and business community in Massachusetts will join us. By making these small, yet important adjustments, Massachusetts will be more attractive to community solar developers, and we can generate more jobs, increase the use of clean energy, and put money back in the pockets of households, educational institutions, small businesses, and religious groups. And that’s a win for everyone.

Jason Kaplan is COO and general counsel at New York clean energy firm PowerMarket, which has 12 solar installations in Central Mass.

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