Perhaps not surprisingly, solar hot water has been left out of renewable energy mandates in Massachusetts. But a new coalition of thermal energy advocates has started a new campaign to change that.
With a state renewable portfolio standard (RPS), a state mandates that utilities have to produce or procure a certain amount of renewable energy. If they don’t, they have to pay an expensive fine. Often, the law carves out minimum requirements for a particular type of energy, such as wind and solar PV, but solar thermal is sometimes not included in these carve-outs.
Such is the case in Massachusetts, where the state’s version of an RPS, called the Alternative Portfolio Standard (APS), is generating solar power and solar jobs, but mostly in the solar PV world.
Now, MassCleanHeatBill.org is leading the support for a new law that would amend the current APS so that it includes carve-outs for solar thermal, biomass, geothermal heat pumps, renewable natural gas, and bio fuel.
Massachusetts Senate Bill 1593 (PDF) was introduced by State Senator Finegold of Andover in January of 2013. If enacted, the law would add heating and cooling with renewable fuels to the technologies eligible for Alternative Energy Credits (AECs). AECs give homeowners cash incentives for the amount of alternative energy that their systems produce. Currently, solar thermal and other thermal technologies only receive credits when they’re used to produce electricity, but not when they’re used to produce solar hot water, solar radiant heating, or any other thermal energy.
Fifteen states currently give some kind of incentive for solar thermal production. The two most recent additions are Maryland and New Hampshire.
Enacting SB 1593 would have many benefits: It would reduce energy costs for customers and for utilities, spur local economic development and jobs, as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, it would give consumers an economic incentive to switch to solar water heating systems, and other thermal energy systems.
If you a solar hot water installer in Massachusetts and would like to contribute to the campaign or help in any way, please contact the campaign here.