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Energy sell-back gets nod in state bill

The state Senate passed its version of renewable energy legislation that allows for farmers and towns to sell electricity generated by wind, solar and other sustainable technologies.

The Generate Renewable Energy and Efficiency Now, or GREEN, Act, promoting renewable energy resources and energy efficiency includes a provision by Sen. Stanley Rosenberg that would allow farmers to generate up to 2 megawatts of electricity from renewable sources and sell it back to the utility company as a form of so-called ”net metering.”

The legislation, which also allows municipalities to construct, own and operate small, renewable generators, is the Senate counterpart of the ”Green Communities Act” adopted by the House in November.

It also encourages utilities to promote energy efficiency instead of buying that power from power plants and extends to 2020 the state’s Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard, which will require 20 percent of electricity in the state to come from renewable technologies.

”This proposal will help farmers by allowing them to offset the cost of their own energy use while producing environmentally friendly electricity,” said Rosenberg, pointing to the Dairy Task Force that came up with the idea over the past year as part of its work to help dairy farmers become more viable.

”Overall, this legislation will make Massachusetts a national leader in energy conservation and put us among the vanguard leading the way on renewable energy. It really does revolutionize the way we use and generate energy in Massachusetts,” said Diana Connett of Environment Massachusetts, the environmental arm of Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group. ”We’re really excited by the bill that the Senate put forth and are excited to see it to the finish, through conference committee, to make sure it’s the best bill we can possibly get.

She said the ”net metering” provisions – increasing the incentives for utility customers to sell excess electricity from photovoltaic, wind and other renewable generators – ”really opens the door to a lot more local generation of power.”

Renewable sources include energy generated from any one of the following: solar photovoltaic or solar thermal electric energy; wind energy; fuel cells utilizing renewable fuels; naturally flowing water and hydroelectric; reduced emission, advanced biomass power conversion technologies, such as gasification using such biomass fuels as wood, agricultural, or food wastes, energy crops, biogas, biodiesel, or organic refuse-derived fuel.

The bill also includes a Rosenberg initiative that would require every house in Massachusetts, starting in 2010, to have a ”home energy score” to provide homebuyers with options on how to save energy.

The provision had been opposed by the Massachusetts Association of Realtors, which opposed ”mandatory energy efficiency” as an unnecessary requirement that could be costly to homeowners.

”This is just a first step,” said Rosenberg, an Amherst Democrat, ”but it is significant nonetheless. If every house in the state could improve its energy efficiency by just five percent, that would represent a hugely positive impact to the overall environment.”

The legislation also requires electricity distribution companies to enter into long-term contracts for renewable energy to help renewable energy suppliers secure their place in the supply network.

”I expect this bill to be a principal initiative in the Senate to move forward with renewable energy resources, particularly solar and wind, as well as other forms that will help reduce rising energy costs and promote efficiency and conservation,” said the legislation’s chief author, Sen. Michael Morrissey, D-Quincy, chairman of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy.

The legislation also mandates improved quality of service from utilities operating in the state, and increased information about competitive energy suppliers available to consumers.

The legislation establishes a ”Green Communities” program to focus on promoting energy efficiency, renewable energy and other strategies.

The Senate version of the legislation does away with tax breaks for hybrid car buyers and adds two safeguards to the House’s authorization of coal gasification as an alternative energy source: permanent sequestration of carbon dioxide emissions and a requirement that net emissions be no greater than those from the cleanest gas facilities.

By Richie Davis
Recorder Staff

The Greenfield Recorder

11 January 2008