Letter to the Editor: Ruban’s Call To End Solar Tariff Wrong For Belmont

To the editor: 

Belmont is on track to have the most successful solarization campaign in Massachusetts. This is the result of the solar tariff and buyback policy adopted unanimously last year by the Board of Selectmen, acting as the Light Board. The policy has been highly praised by some of the most committed solar energy advocates in town.

The hallmark of the new tariff, after years of debate, is fairness. It provides a large incentive to install solar panels. The return on this investment is likely to be in the 14 percent to 18 percent range, and is virtually risk-free. Try to match that anywhere else in the world today. At the same time, it is equitable to the other Belmont residents who cannot or wish not to install solar, for whatever reason. It is equitable because the tariff will result in a modest payment to Belmont Light to help cover the cost of the local distribution system that is still needed by every solar host. This system is only paid for by local residents and other Belmont Light customers.

As the chair of Belmont’s Temporary Net Metering Task Force, I helped design the tariff.  I am proud that it resolved a very divisive policy problem efficiently and fairly and has already led to more than 120 new solar hosts. I am in fact one of those new solar users. 

So I was very surprised to hear Alexandra Ruban state in the League of Women Voters’ Candidate Forum last night [Wednesday, March 30] that she wishes to end the solar tariff. Instead, she wants to impose a different policy called “full retail net metering” that is not fair to Belmont as whole at all.  Her proposal would give an even larger payment to the solar hosts, even though it is obviously not necessary because they have already chosen to install solar under the current plan. Her policy would also drastically reduce or even eliminate the modest contribution by solar hosts to cover the cost of the local distribution system.  

This is all the more surprising because Ruban also said last night that she wants to save money for the town. Then why pay a windfall to the new and existing solar hosts?  That windfall just has to be made up by other residents. That is unfair and brings us back to the divisive debate that we were able to end last year.

Roy Epstein

Cushing Avenue