“It will only cost a cup of coffee a month.”
We hear that phrase a lot from renewable-energy advocates seeking to justify uneconomical and inefficient government subsidy programs by arguing that they waste only a small amount of money at a time.
But put enough cups of coffee together and these programs turn into a something like a Box O’ Joe that poses a real threat to the Massachusetts economy.
The incremental costs of half-baked energy subsides add up, particularly for large customers like manufacturers and hospitals that cannot avoid them unless they reduce their electricity use to zero through onsite generation, which is not always practical. These politically generated costs are not added to the bottom lines of competitors in other states.
The subsidies avoid ratepayer outrage in large part because their cost is virtually invisible to the consumer, hidden in dark corners of electric bills. Some are tucked under the “energy” portion, some are under “distribution,” some are listed separately. Some, like solar and energy efficiency are listed under both. And don’t forget other costs that are sure to increase over the next few years, including transmission.
How much do these programs cost residential and commercial ratepayers? The state solar subsidy program checks in at $600 million per year and is headed for $1.5 billion per year. The energy efficiency program tacks on another $600 million per year. The regional greenhouse gas program, which charges electrical generators for their carbon emissions, totals another $60 million.
AIM is today unveiling an energy calculator designed to help Massachusetts employers decipher the maze of government-mandated energy subsidies. The calculator was developed with Energy Tariff Experts, LLC, and works for most customer classes (including residential), in National Grid and Eversource territories. Other rate classes will be added as necessary.
Based on trials with some members, the results show:
- Total subsidies for state-mandated programs, most of which have been added since 2008, can equal 25 percent of a customer’s total bill.
- Solar subsidies are so large they will likely become the largest mandated program on a customer’s bills this year. In fact, the cost nearly equals the cost for energy efficiency.
We invite you to use the AIM energy calculator. Also, if you are inclined, please save the spreadsheet and send us a copy. No identifying information is collected on our Web site or on the spreadsheet.