Increasing electric bills? How to save with solar in Massachusetts
Guest Blog by Emily Walker, EnergySage
If you live in Massachusetts and recently received an email from your utility company alerting you of imminent price hikes, you’re certainly not alone. Massachusetts has three investor-owned electric utilities (National Grid, Eversource, and Unitil) — and all of them have announced major increases in electricity prices starting this fall or winter. When the cost of everyday essentials is already at an all-time high due to inflation, planning for higher electricity prices can feel overwhelming (and even impossible!). Luckily, we’re here to share some ways you can save on energy costs each month (spoiler alert: you’ll save the most in the long run by going solar.).
Why are electric bills increasing — and by how much?
In Massachusetts, natural gas accounts for about 68% of electricity generation. Natural gas prices are on the rise across the country due to increases in global demand and limited supply, driving up electricity prices as a result. Every Massachusetts utility company updates electricity prices twice a year – but the exact dates vary by company. Let’s take a look at when and by how much your electric bill could increase:
|Utility company||Example of monthly electricity usage||Anticipated monthly price increase||Implementation date||Next change date|
|National Grid||600 kWh||$114||11/1/2022||5/1/2023|
|Eversource (eastern MA)||600 kWh||$47||1/1/2023||7/1/2023|
|Eversource (western MA)||600 kWh||$39||1/1/2023||7/1/2023|
How solar leads to savings
No matter which utility company you have, these monthly prices increases are high — so finding ways to save is likely top of mind. You probably know that going solar will lower your carbon footprint, but did you know that it will also lead to long-term savings? Let’s explore how it works:
Solar lowers electric bills
When you install a solar energy system on your property, you reduce (or even eliminate) how much electricity you need to pull from the grid. Your solar panels generate electricity right at home, powering your devices. But solar only produces energy when the sun is shining, so what about at night? In Massachusetts, we’ve enacted legislation that supports an electric billing tool called net metering. Under net metering, you’re able to send excess electricity produced by your solar panels to the grid; in return, your utility company provides credits on your electricity bill, so you’re only billed for your “net” usage. The credits roll over month to month so you can build up credits when your solar panels are overproducing in the summer and apply them against higher electric bills in the winter (but please keep in mind that your solar panels will still generate electricity in the winter – just not as much).
Solar provides incentives
We know that solar comes with a hefty upfront price tag — but lucky for you, Massachusetts has some great incentives that can help make it an affordable investment. You’ll just need to make sure you purchase your solar energy system with cash or a loan (rather than sign a lease or PPA) if you want to take advantage of these incentives. First off, there’s a federal tax incentive called the solar tax credit that allows you to claim 30% of your solar energy system’s cost on your federal tax return until 2032. Don’t have enough tax liability? No problem. You can roll it over and deduct anything remaining from next year’s taxes.
In Massachusetts, you’ll also be able to apply 15% of your system costs (up to $1,000) against your Massachusetts income tax. Massachusetts also provides sales tax and property tax incentives that ensure 100% tax exemption from your solar purchase and added property value. Finally, through the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program, the State of Massachusetts will pay you a fixed rate per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of solar energy produced for 10 years. As long as you’re a customer of one of the three major utilities, your system is less than 25 kilowatts (kW) in size, and there’s space available within the solar “block” designated by your utility, you’ll receive between 19 and 31 cents per kWh, depending on your location and utility company. If you’re a low-income customer, you’ll earn even more.
Solar protects against inflation
According to electric bill data from EnergySage, the average household spends about $212 each month on electricity – over 25 years, this translates to $77,255, accounting for the 1.58% inflation rate we’ve seen over the past 10 years (these numbers are quite conservative, considering how much electricity prices have recently spiked!). According to EnergySage the average solar energy system size in Massachusetts is 9.1 kilowatt and costs $3.00/watt, equating to $18,110 after you deduct the federal tax incentive and Massachusetts income tax incentive.
Now, let’s assume your solar energy system offsets your electricity bill by 90%; over 25 years, you’ll save over $50,000 on avoided electricity costs!
Can you go solar as a renter?
Not every home is suitable for solar – whether you have a roof with too much shading or rent your home, it might not be feasible for you to install a solar energy system. Fortunately, in Massachusetts, you can still go solar without having to install a single solar panel on your property! Ever see those huge solar arrays as you’re driving on the highway? These are often community solar farms, which generate electricity that’s sent directly to utility companies. When you subscribe to a community solar farm, you support the development of solar in your area, leading to a greater mix of renewable energy and local jobs. While your savings will be lower with community solar than with rooftop solar, they’re still significant: you’ll typically save about 10 to 15 percent annually on your electric bills. So, over that same 25-year time period, you’d save about $10,000.
Other ways to lower your utility bills
Solar isn’t the only way to save on utility bills — here are some other things we suggest:
- Increase your home’s energy efficiency: by properly air-sealing and insulating your home or purchasing energy efficient appliances, you can significantly cut down on your energy expenses. Visit Mass Save® to schedule your free Home Energy Assessment today.
- Install a heat pump: heat pumps run on electricity, so you will spend more on electricity if you install a heat pump system. However, you’ll no longer have to pay for oil or natural gas and with a highly efficient heat pump, you could still save on energy overall. MassSave will even give you a $10,000 rebate against installation costs and provide you with a 0% interest loan up to $50,000. When you pair your heat pump with solar, you can maximize savings even more.
- Use a smart thermostat: smart thermostats allow you to program and remotely adjust your home’s temperature 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Most smart thermostat companies estimate that you’ll save between 10% and 12% on heating and up to 15% on cooling each year.
How to maximize your solar savings
If you decide solar’s the right investment for you, you’ll want a system that provides efficient and reliable energy throughout its 25- to 30-year lifetime. To install a system at the right price that meets your energy needs, we recommend you compare quotes from multiple installers before making a decision.
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