Solar advocates react to agreement by conference committee, highlighting critical missing piece – raising the solar net metering cap
Today, the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate will vote on an agreement on clean energy. The compromise legislation requires Eversource to revise its solar ‘demand charge,’ a rare regulatory intervention by the legislature, increases the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), and includes other important energy policies. However, raising caps on net metering that have stalled solar projects across the Commonwealth is not currently included in the proposed legislation. While the Senate had passed legislation raising these caps, the whole House never voted on the issue after a bill moved through two committees.
The solar industry employs more than 11,500 people in Massachusetts, and has brought more than $5 billion of investment to the local economy in the last few years. Massachusetts’ solar industry has led to consumer savings, economic growth, job creation and environmental benefits. It has been nearly two years since the net metering cap for private and community shared projects in National Grid’s service territory was hit, and now caps have been hit in two other utility service areas slamming the brakes on hundreds of solar projects in 230 cities and towns. Adding to this issue is the uncertainty around the start and details of the state’s new incentive program – the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program, which will now be the only driver of market growth for the solar industry, leaving some municipal and business customers who want to put solar on their own roof, unable to do it in much of the Commonwealth.
Vote Solar, MassSolar, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA), the Solar Energy Business Association of New England (SEBANE) and the Northeast Clean Energy Council (NECEC), issued the following statement:
“We thank the legislature for reaching agreement on legislation that will address a number of necessary clean energy policies. An important portion of this legislation was addressing Eversource’s confusing and damaging new charge on solar customers, which had been approved by the Department of Public Utilities. This unprecedented residential ‘demand charge’ would have drastically slowed residential solar growth and made solar customers’ bills higher and completely unpredictable. This legislation represents a rejection of this type of charge for solar and residential customers. In addition, increasing the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) strengthens the foundation for renewable energy success and lets the world know Massachusetts remains open for clean energy business.
“But small commercial and business solar projects across the Commonwealth will remain stalled as the legislation leaves a needless barrier to customer adoption of solar, caps on Massachusetts’ most successful solar program, net metering, in place. With just hours left in the session, it appears the urgent action needed to get solar back to work for the Commonwealth will wait for another year.
“For longer than a decade, Massachusetts’ solar success has led to consumer savings, economic growth, job creation and environmental benefits. We appreciate the conference committee’s work on addressing Eversource's solar charge and the RPS and we look forward to rolling up our sleeves together again tomorrow to make lasting progress for clean energy in Massachusetts.”