AP News

Solar power to cost Mass. residents more


BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts utility customers face more than $1 billion in higher electricity bills over the next two decades under a plan to dramatically expand solar power, state officials and utilities say.

The average residential customer would pay $1 to $1.50 more per month under the plan pushed by Gov. Deval Patrick, said Mark Sylvia, commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.

In a filing with state regulators last month, Northeast Utilities System contended Patrick's plan to quadruple the amount of solar power in use in Massachusetts would lead to consumers paying "excess costs" of more than $1 billion because of how they would be forced to buy the electricity.

The trade-off, Sylvia told The Boston Globe (http://b.globe.com/1ntACLP ), is cleaner air, a more diverse source of electricity, and a burgeoning solar energy industry that will provide economic benefits.

"We're building upon success," said Sylvia, noting that in 2013 Massachusetts exceeded its previous goal of 400 megawatts of solar power several years earlier than expected.

The administration's goal is 1,600 megawatts by 2020.

Utilities say they are concerned with how the governor's plan would require them to obtain power from a mix of large and small producers, resulting in higher prices for solar power.

Instead, utilities want to be able to shop bids for solar power from a few larger producers, on the assumption they would be able to negotiate better prices.

"We believe competitive bidding from large private developers leads to lower prices," Northeast spokesman Michael Durand said.

National Grid argued it could buy solar power for 20 percent less if it doesn't have to spread its purchases among hundreds of small, medium, and large suppliers.

Carrie Cullen Hitt, senior vice president for state affairs at the Solar Energy Industry Association, predicted Massachusetts will have "plenty of competition" from solar producers that will keep prices down.

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Information from: The Boston Globe, http://www.bostonglobe.com


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