Talking Points
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    Talking Points

    Solar debate heats up again

    Solar panels.
    Susan Broadbridge/Hattiesburg American via Associated Press
    Solar panels.

    Eversource executives knew they would upset people with their big rate request. Now, it is municipal leaders’ turn to gripe.

    Seven communities say they will lose $1.6 million a year because Eversource is changing reimbursement rates for electricity from their solar panel projects. Newton Mayor Setti Warren is among those leading the charge: He expects his city will get hit with about $400,000 annually in reduced credits if state officials approve Eversource’s plan. Several of the communities filed a petition last week with the Department of Public Utilities, essentially asking regulators to protect their old rates for already-built projects.

    Others could see reductions, too. Warren’s staff says Eversource indicated the total loss of net metering credits could exceed $5 million a year.

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    Eversource spokesman Michael Durand tells me the utility is simply updating its rates to reflect the cost of providing service to net metering customers. The goal is to make the system more equitable for customers without solar panels. Durand says these seven communities will still probably receive more than they’re giving up.

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    Meanwhile, there’s another big change coming. Durand says Eversource is seeking, through this rate case, to start charging a minimum monthly amount to customers with new solar projects that go online after Jan. 1, 2019. He says the aim, again, is to ensure those without solar power aren’t unfairly subsidizing those who have it.

    This issue of who pays has been at the crux of the solar debate on Beacon Hill for years — and this new challenge from municipalities shows it isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

    Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com and on Twitter @jonchesto.