Community Empowerment is an enabling piece of legislation that pairs developers of renewable energy projects with local communities wanting to stabilize energy prices and purchase more renewable energy. The current MA legislative framework has a gap in long-term financing for renewable energy projects. Community Empowerment looks to bridge this gap by adding another tool to the project financing toolbox whereas renewable project developers can take long-term (10-15 year) financeable contracts, signed with the town, to a bank to receive the necessary financing in order to develop their project and bring more renewable energy and benefits to the region and local communities.
Mechanisms that allow for these long-term contracts to occur with individual towns currently do not exist without the town or developers taking on a certain amount of risk. Under current legislation, towns are authorized to have buying power in energy through aggregation. However, renewable energy projects are not financeable under this municipal aggregation because customers can opt-out of the chosen municipality by the town and choose their own provider. This opt-out makes renewable energy initiatives non-financeable due to a lack of credit-worthy buyers. Community Empowerment would also eliminate the need to continue raising the controversial caps for net metering.
In addition to mitigating financial risk, Community Empowerment builds on pre-existing long term renewable energy contractual requirements for the utilities. These requirements are currently outlined in Chapter 169, section 83 of the Acts of 2008 (the Green Communities Act), amended by Chapter 209, section 36 of the Acts of 2012.
Community Empowerment further amends these acts by enabling the option for towns to enter into long-term, financeable contracts on behalf of all end users, residents, and businesses in the community through a democratic process.
There is a will to get more renewable energy projects off the ground, but they are not currently happening at a quick enough rate. This bill puts energy decisions in the hands of the communities and would allow them to increase their renewable energy consumption above state mandated Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) tying into broader state & regional energy emissions goals while providing more benefits to the local community.