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How Third-Party Suppliers Soured the Clean Energy Market

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A Guide to Choosing Clean Power in MA

Utilities and energy are a complicated space, and for a busy consumer it can be confusing when trying to make a switch to cleaner energy. In particular, third party suppliers with inflated rates and shady tactics have been an ongoing problem in Massachusetts. Poor experiences with them have turned many customers into skeptics, but there are legitimate ways to reduce your carbon footprint with your electricity choices.

What is competitive supply?

Utility bills are split into two parts – delivery and supply. Delivery is what you pay the utility to be connected to their grid, and have energy brought to your home. Supply is what you pay for the actual energy you use. By default you get your “supply” from the utility itself, but to try and avoid monopolies, Massachusetts also allows what is called “competitive supply” or “third-party supply.” This means getting  the supply portion of your bill from another company that’s not the utility. The problem comes when this supplier has a variable rate – that is, their pricing is set “…at the discretion of the competitive supplier.” Some residents that have used these suppliers may have joined looking at a rate that was much lower than the utilities, only to have it jump up above the utility “standard offer” rate a short time later, leaving them worse off than they started.

What are legitimate clean energy offerings?

Some suppliers may market as being a clean energy offering, but they usually have a mix of energy that is not 100% renewable, and they will often be priced at a slight premium. There are better ways to know you’re choosing clean energy.

Solar

Perhaps the most obvious one is to install a solar array yourself – you know what’s being produced is clean energy that’s feeding directly into your meter. But for many people, solar requires good credit or a large upfront payment or their home is not sited well for solar.

RECs

A REC, or Renewable Energy Certificate, is defined by Mass Climate Action as  “… proof of purchase for the attributes of renewable energy generation.” An individual, company, or nonprofit that wants to cut their carbon footprint can buy RECs to offset their usage. This is a way to directly support clean power projects because the project owner gets the money for the RECs, thereby raising the project’s value.

Community Solar

Community solar, or community shared solar (CSS,) is a way to share the benefits of a solar array with multiple participants in a given region. Participants generally save money by getting a discount for on-bill credits that offset their utility bill. A host with good siting for solar will install the array; this installation is supported by the participants who invest or buy credit from the farm. This form of solar is meant as a solution for those who cannot install a solar array themselves. Currently this is one of the best ways to both support local, clean solar energy and benefit by getting electricity bill savings.

You can help make good energy choices by joining a Community Solar Farm.

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Everett Advocate touts the city’s Community Shared Solar program

The April 26, 2019 issue of the Everett Advocate highlights Relay Power’s role in bringing Community Solar to Everett, MA, and describes how the program is a win/win for the City as well as it’s residents.

Read the pdf below or at the Advocate’s link.

Everett Advocate

See how you can help Fight Climate Change by joining a Community Solar Farm.

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How Rooftop Solar Companies are Complementing Community Solar

There’s no question that solar is booming. Over the past ten years, the industry has seen an “…Average annual growth rate of 50%…” and now employs over 242,000 people in the United States. Even with this boom, there is still a huge amount of unmet need when it comes to solar. Rooftop solar installers and community solar companies can work together to move the country towards a clean energy future. In fact, a number of rooftop solar companies profit by referring customers to community solar when they can’t or won’t install on their home.

Community Solar Complements Rooftop Solar

A recent survey of solar installers revealed that traditional rooftop solar installers don’t view community solar as competition. In fact, rooftop solar companies had a overwhelmingly positive response to community solar. That’s because community solar serves different customers that rooftop can’t. According to the US Census, about forty percent of Americans live in housing that would not support a solar array. And even for those who do, obstacles like finances, structural concerns and shading prevent a majority of customers from taking advantage of the environmental and financial advantages of rooftop solar. Community solar can fill this gap, removing financial and siting obstacles that customers face when looking to make clean energy choices.

Community Solar Builds Awareness and Normalizes Solar

The survey also points out another major benefit to community solar. Having large public arrays like the ones along the Massachusetts Turnpike help to normalize solar. The more arrays there are, the more people will think of solar as a regular fact of life, rather than a futuristic and expensive pipe dream. These arrays can act as advertisement too, sparking interest for both potential rooftop and community solar customers as they pass by them.

We’ve Only Scratched the Surface

There’s good synergy between rooftop solar installers and community solar, and the market is still mostly untapped. In 2018, the United States only got 1.6% of its electricity from solar, while 76% of voters support increasing solar capacity. Both types of solar should find ways to work together to transform our energy grid.

If your rooftop solar company would like to learn how to profit from community solar, Learn More

Or contact us to become a partner.

And nearly everyone can help Fight Climate Change by joining a Community Solar Farm.

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Solar is Becoming Cost-Effective in More Places

Incentive-free solar projects are becoming more common. Unsubsidized developments in favorable climates like southern Europe have already achieved price parity with other types of energy, and the falling cost of solar installations is making this feasible in more places.

Northern Europe

  • A German utility signed a contract earlier this year for an eighty five megawatt solar farm in Northern Germany without incentives.
  • There are also two farms planned for the U.K. in York and Kingston upon Hull.
    • The incentive-free system in York will be “37.4 megawatts of PV tied to a 27-megawatt, 30-megawatt-hour Samsung battery system, the largest solar-paired energy storage asset in the country.

Alberta

  • Alberta’s Ministry of Infrastructure has agreed to buy the energy produced by a 94 megawatt solar installation, which is being installed without the assistance of incentives.
  • The installation is using solar panels which can produce on both sides, making use of the reflected light from long lasting snow.
  • The installations are 50% owned by the Conklin Métis, an indigenous community from the oil-sands region of Alberta.

China

  • China has been aggressively installing clean energy, but caused concern in the solar world last year when they halted incentives due to the large bill from so many projects.
    • Their solution to continue rapid development while keeping costs in check is to develop several pilots for incentive-free solar.
    • “The new subsidy-free projects will generate renewable power for sale at the same prices as non-subsidised coal-fired power plants, and will not have to comply with capacity quota restrictions…”

It’s clear that even in snowy northern climates, solar is a viable option. And as costs continue to come down, more and more solar won’t need assistance, subsidies or incentives to compete with fossil fuels.

You can help Fight Climate Change by joining a Community Solar Farm.

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solar field

Climate Change isn’t the whole problem

So much of the discussion around clean energy currently focuses on climate change and pricing, but we shouldn’t forget another important reason to “go green” – pollution. Fossil fuels and nuclear produce dangerous pollutants which have a direct impact on our health and the sustainability of our planet.

Coal

  • Coal use is declining, but we still get almost 30% of the country’s power from it.
  • Coal extraction uses harmful techniques such as mountaintop removal and strip mining, which pollutes water sources and damages ecosystems.
    • Underground coal mines pose threats to safety from collapse and methane leaks.
  • Burning coal releases heavy metals such as mercury, as well as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulates
    • These pollutants are linked to respiratory illness, neurological damage, smog and acid rain.

Natural Gas

  • Natural gas burns cleaner and more efficiently than coal, but it still emits pollutants and accounts for about 32% of our energy.
  • The extraction of natural gas can be problematic.
    • Laying pipelines to transport natural gas requires clearing land, and when the pipelines leak they release methane, a strong greenhouse gas.
    • Hydrogren sulfide is burned off, or “flared,” when extracting natural gas, which releases varying pollutants
    • Hydraulic fracturing, commonly referred to as fracking, uses a fluid that contains unknown chemicals – only 28 states require the disclosure of some of the chemicals in fracking fluid. This fluid can leak and pollute water supplies.
  • Fracking has also resulted in earthquakes at wastewater injection sites.

Nuclear

  • Some says nuclear energy could help with climate change, but we should not take the potential health risks lightly.
  • Used nuclear fuel emits dangerous levels of radiation long after it’s used and there is currently no long-term solution on where and how to store this waste.
  • Nuclear meltdowns may be relatively infrequent or unlikely, but when they happen they’re disastrous.
    • Incidents like Fukushima and Chernobyl have a high human cost, and render cities uninhabitable for the foreseeable future.

Solar is a Solution

  • The guaranteed lifespan of solar panels is twenty to twenty-five years, which is much better than many consumer electronics such as cell phones or laptops, and in many cases they can be recycled.
  • Using the sun for energy doesn’t emit water, air, or carbon pollution.

You can help Fight Climate Change by joining a Community Solar Farm.

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Ready to go Community Solar?
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Everett, MA

Everett Mayor Announces Community Solar Partnership

Everett is Going Green

This past Wednesday, Mayor DeMaria announced that Everett has decided to purchase solar energy credits from solar farms built by Syncarpha here in Massachusetts. He cited the effects a changing climate has on a coastal community like Everett, including increased flooding and storms. Taking the city solar will also have cost-savings that can be put to use elsewhere in the budget.

Residents Can Participate Too

These farms are also open to any MA residents served by National Grid electricity, and Mayor DeMaria encouraged Everett to join him in choosing clean energy: “I hope our residents will take advantage of the residential portion of the Community Shared Solar opportunity to purchase clean, renewable, solar energy credits. Those who opt into the new residential program will also save money.”

How Does it Work?

Residential community solar is a relatively new offering in Massachusetts. Many homeowners have investigated rooftop solar but found that their roof wasn’t well suited for it, or that the arrays were too expensive. Community solar offers a much simpler way to “go solar.” Residents receive discounted credits on their electric bill, based on what their “share” of the solar farm produces – giving them guaranteed savings. There are no upfront costs and there is no installation required. Joining a community solar farm not only supports clean energy, it has economic benefits right here in Massachusetts.

You can help Fight Climate Change by joining a Community Solar Farm.

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Ready to go Community Solar?
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Customer Success Stories

“We have a challenging roof that prohibits rooftop solar. So I love that Relay Power offers an alternative. On top of helping the environment, we save money, which is a great bonus.” – Greg N. from Beverly

 

 

“This was a great opportunity to take meaningful action to reduce our carbon footprint, with the added benefit of actually paying less for the energy I use at home. It’s a no-brainer for those looking to live more sustainably. For a long time, we have been looking into solar panels for our house but for one reason or another haven’t been able to pull the trigger. This is a great alternative.” – Michelle L., Manchester, MA

 

 

“The process was quick and easy really. My wife and I both work full time and we have two kids under five, so I’m usually not into things that are time intensive. I would recommend this to my family and friends.” – Matt P. from Beverly

 

winter street scene

Global “Weirding:” Cold Weather on a Warming Planet

Many responded to the cold snaps this winter with skepticism towards climate change. How can the Earth be warming if we’re having record low temperatures? But a globe that’s heating up overall doesn’t necessarily mean warmer temperatures everywhere all the time, it may mean more extreme weather and changing weather patterns.

Colder Winters for North America

According to National Geographic, a warmer Arctic will affect larger climate patterns and ironically may likely result in colder winters in North America.

  • “As more Arctic air flows into southern regions, North America can expect to see harsher winters. That was the conclusion of a study published in 2017 in the journal Nature Geoscience.”
  • “A separate study published in March of last year in the journal Nature Communications found the same link but predicted the northeastern portion of the U.S. would be particularly hard hit.

Why Should We Care if the Weather Changes?

Our new weather patterns are not only going to be unusual, they’re also likely to be dangerous.

  • National Geographic went on to warn: “As the air in the Arctic warms, those jet streams slow and prevent normal weather patterns from circulating—floods last longer and droughts become more persistent. One study published in Science Advances last October predicted extreme, deadly weather events could increase by as much as 50 percent by 2100.”
  • The EPA warns that extreme fluctuations in weather and more extreme weather events could have consequences ranging from crop damage, increased spread of diseases, property damage, changing precipitation patterns resulting in drought and flooding, and population displacement.

Some of the impacts of global warming may be difficult to predict, but unusual and extreme weather is one consequence we’re already starting to see. The good news is that it’s not too late to act. Many states are pushing for aggressive carbon offset targets, and coming up with innovative programs to solve climate change. Here in Massachusetts, we have accessible programs like community solar that empower more people than ever to be part of the solution.

You can help Fight Climate Change by joining a Community Solar Farm.

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The Green New Deal: Can We Both Solve Climate Change and Build the Economy?

Last week Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey released details on the ambitious, if potentially divisive, Green New Deal. Whether you agree with it or not, it is catapulting climate change back into the national political conversation.  

What is “The Green New Deal?”

  • The Green New Deal is a plan to address some the biggest issues facing the US: climate change, social justice, and economic inequality. It’s styled after the New Deal of the great depression era, which aimed to fix an economic crisis with public works projects.
    • The resolution aims to offset enough carbon to meet the deadline set by the IPCC recently to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
    • It calls for heavy investment in clean technology and energy efficiency projects.
    • These efforts would focus on areas of the country that previously relied on fossil fuels, as well as rural and poor areas that have historically suffered from pollution.

What Makes it Controversial?

  • Opponents to the plan argue that it’s too expensive and ambitious.
  • There has also been pushback on the resolution’s focus on a social safety net, including union protections, affordable housing, and universal health care.
  • Defenders of the resolution argue that previous American achievements such as going to the moon were also ambitious and thought to be impossible, but they started with a goal and a timeline.
  • Whether you agree with the scope and goals of the Green New Deal or not, at least it has brought the topic of climate change back into public discussion.

Can we Strengthen the Economy by Fighting Climate Change?

  • Skeptics have long argued that transitioning to “greener” technologies would be prohibitively expensive and harm the economy.
  • But in practice, states investing in clean energy have seen an economic boost.
  • There are practical success stories of clean energy addressing pollution and climate change as well as social justice and economic issues.
    • For example, community solar delivers jobs, offsets pollution, and brings financial saving to the communities where the solar farms are installed.
    • Community solar and programs like it are more accessible to people who are not in an economic position to buy or install clean energy individually.

The Green New Deal may be criticized as divisive and ambitious, but the idea that we can boost the economy, address inequality, and fight climate change may not be so far fetched.

Join a Community Solar Farm. Fight Climate Change.

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What Customers Are Saying About Community Solar

A Customer’s Perspective – Why Go Community Solar with Relay Power?

Community Solar is a relatively new offering. Many folks have never even heard of it before we introduce it to them. Once they do hear about it, many people like the idea of “shared” or communal solar fields, but are unsure of what joining one entails. So to give some insight, we thought we’d share what our recent customer Matt P. from Beverly had to say about the process and why community solar was a good fit for his family.

  • Everyone Wants to Support Clean Energy – Community Solar helps fight climate change.

“My wife and I had been interested in a cleaner energy option since we bought our house three and a half years ago here in Beverly.”

  • It’s Easy – We know everyone has busy lives, so we keep the process to learn about and join a farm quick and simple.

I had once read about solar energy companies offering the benefits of their cleaner, cost saving energy from “solar farms” that homeowners could tap into which sounded like a good option, but what would the contracts and terms look like for that? …The process was quick and easy. My wife and I both work full time and we have two kids under five, so I’m usually not into things that are time intensive.”

  • No Installation Required – With community solar, the panels are off site, so you don’t have to worry.

“…The way our house is situated on our plot of land with trees surrounding, it was going to be difficult to get maximum capacity out of those panels.  Second the contract that goes along with those panels, at the time, would have made selling our house a bit tricky… Last, I really don’t like the look of roof solar panels, especially on the front roof of a house.”

Guaranteed Savings – Of course Matt didn’t even mention that you save money on your electricity costs – guaranteed.

 

Find out for yourself!

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Ready to go Community Solar?

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