Brandeis saves money by signing solar agreement

Brandeis saves money by signing solar agreement

January 27, 2017

Brandeis signed a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) to reduce the amount of money paid for electricity bills through virtual net metering, a process in which solar energy is installed at an off-site location and then shared among those who are part of the agreement.

Virtual net metering utilizes a bill crediting system for solar energy. Multiple subscribers share the use of a solar array that is located off-site. Depending on how much energy one subscriber’s share of the array produces, they will receive credits for that amount of energy on their utility bill. Then, instead of being billed for the entire group of subscribers’ energy usage, the subscriber is only billed for how much energy they used for that month, reducing the overall cost.

Although the agreement between Brandeis and Kenyon Energy was signed in 2015, the university did not come out with a press release about the deal until mid-January, according to Mary Fischer, manager of Sustainability Programs. The solar array that Brandeis uses is located on a building in an industrial area of Somerville.

Other parties who are part of the agreement are Kenyon Energy, Borrego Solar Systems and Competitive Energy Services (CES). CES assists Brandeis in reducing the university’s energy load and increasing sustainability. They are the party who originally directed Brandeis to the virtual net metering opportunity.

Borrego Solar Systems builds, develops and installs the solar panels, and Kenyon Energy is the financer of the solar company that Brandeis pays and who will oversee the management of the solar array throughout the duration of the agreement.

This agreement is expected to save Brandeis money and makes much more fiscal sense than paying for a normal electricity bill. The amount Brandeis will save always depends on what the price of electricity is each year, but Brandeis is expected to save an estimated $70,000 over the course of the first year the agreement is in effect, and up to $2 million over the next 20 years, which is the entire duration of the agreement, according to the press release. There is about a 25 percent discount rate from what the university would normally pay, Fischer said.

The only potential drawback to the deal is that Brandeis cannot “own” the carbon footprint reduction. Because so many other parties are involved in the agreement and the university is only paying for a share of the solar array, Brandeis cannot technically say it is reducing the carbon footprint on its own, according to Fischer.

However, this is a small price to pay in exchange for the money Brandeis is saving and the contribution it is making to solar energy. “It doesn’t matter in the end who ‘owns’ it in the overall issue of climate change,” Fischer said. “At the end of the day, we’re adding more solar to the grid and that benefits the entire planet.”

In addition, the university is actively looking to increase the amount of solar energy on campus, Fischer said. The university has submitted proposals to have more solar energy on campus, but state incentives are the only thing delaying the process; without the state incentive, solar energy is not as cost effective as regular electricity.

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