Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker vetoed climate change legislation that would have removed barriers in current solar polices that limit access to solar energy for thousands of low-income households in Massachusetts.
“In order to address the impacts of climate change, people of all incomes need to be part of the solution," said DeWitt Jones, president of BlueHub Energy. "The bill vetoed by Governor Baker would have removed some of the key challenges to bringing solar power to low-income residents and would have allowed thousands of households in Massachusetts to access affordable, clean solar energy for the first time. We are disappointed this legislation was rejected but we are hopeful that House and Senate leadership will refile this landmark bill and pass it promptly. Massachusetts has some of the highest electricity costs in the country, and utilities bills are often cited as a major challenge for families with low incomes. We need to remove these barriers to solar power to help our neighbors with low incomes and to see meaningful progress on climate change."
The provisions of the bill that addressed barriers to solar for people with low incomes were sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Dykema (D—Holliston) and Sen. Jamie Eldridge (D—Acton), and were included in the climate change bill passed by the House in July. BlueHub worked closely with Rep. Tom Golden (D—Lowell) and Sen. Michael Barrett (D—Lexington), the chairs of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, to get the provisions into the final version of the bill.
Key solar provisions of the bill included:
- Lifting geographic restrictions for participation in community shared solar programs. This will help eliminate barriers that have limited access to solar for low-income households and tenants in Boston, the surrounding communities, and many other environmental justice neighborhoods.
- Requiring utility companies to allow alternative financing mechanisms for community shared solar programs so low-income residents are not locked into complicated, expensive and burdensome contracts. This will significantly increase the number of residents with low incomes that can benefit from solar savings and also enhances consumer protections to ensure low-income participants save money on their electric bills.
- Establishing requirements to ensure that low-income residents and environmental justice communities benefit from the design of future solar programs and policies.
Less than 4 percent of solar under the state’s current solar program is comprised of low-income community solar projects.
Many households with low incomes are renters and cannot install solar panels on their own roofs, or they are homeowners but rooftop solar is not an option due to cost, roof issues or shading. Community shared solar projects are critical, and often the only way low-income households can access the savings provided by solar.
BlueHub has been working through its affiliate, BlueHub Energy, for over a decade to develop innovative financing and business models that expand access to solar for residents with low incomes in communities across the state.
BlueHub has developed approximately 7 megawatts of solar capacity across 30 projects in Massachusetts. The projects serve affordable housing developments, municipal facilities and nonprofit organizations such as the Greater Boston Food Bank.
Since 1985, BlueHub Capital has been building healthy communities where low-income people live and work. BlueHub Capital has provided more than $2.2 billion in financing to projects and businesses that create affordable housing, good jobs, and new opportunities for underserved people and communities.
About BlueHub Capital
BlueHub Capital is a national nonprofit community finance organization with a 35-year history of building healthy communities where low-income people live and work. Since 1985, BlueHub Capital has invested over $2.2 billion to support low-income communities, creating and preserving over 24,000 units of affordable housing, 13,000 jobs, healthcare services for more than 197,000 patients, education and daycare for more than 70,700 children, and prevented over 1,150 foreclosure-related evictions. To learn more about BlueHub Capital and the impact of its investments, visit bluehubcapital.org.