Leaders from New Bedford to Northampton push for raising the solar net metering cap, eliminating Eversource’s ‘demand charge’ and increasing the Renewable Portfolio Standard

With less than a week left before the end of the legislative session, municipal leaders from across the Commonwealth sent a letter today urging the Massachusetts House and Senate to act on pending clean energy legislation to continue the growth of solar and clean energy. The letter asked legislators to remove the caps on solar net metering or raise them by at least 5 percent, repeal Eversource’s new solar “Demand Charge” and to increase the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by at least 3 percent per year. The letter was organized with support from Vote Solar, the Solar Energy Business Association of New England (SEBANE), MassSolar, Environment Massachusetts and the Sierra Club. 

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“Municipal leaders from across the state recognize the importance and urgency of passing strong clean energy policy before the legislative session ends next week on July 31st,” said Sean Garren, Northeast Senior Director for Vote Solar. “Already, the Commonwealth has lost more than 3,000 solar jobs across the state after two straight years of losses, following many years of double-digit growth. Local jobs, taxpayer savings, reduced electric bills and public health benefits are being lost in our communities every day due to this uncertainty. We need the House and Senate to continue their clean energy leadership by acting quickly to get the solar industry and our economy back on track.”

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, and cities and towns have been at the forefront as participants and beneficiaries. Solar has helped cities and towns across the state save money on their electric bills through net metering, generate new revenue via leases of municipal land and rooftops for solar projects, and bring in property taxes from local development. However, all of these benefits are at risk due to an uncertain policy environment that threatens the state’s solar industry.

“Massachusetts’ cities and towns have been leaders in combating climate change and growing the clean energy economy. By expanding solar access to more citizens, the Commonwealth has seen real economic growth, taxpayer savings, and made significant contributions to the global battle against climate change,” said Mark Sylvia, President of the Solar Energy Business Association of New England (SEBANE) and Managing Director for BlueWave Solar. “Raising the net metering cap, addressing the utility demand charge, and increasing the renewable portfolio standard will continue this substantial momentum, something municipal leaders and citizens alike support and deserve. As a former town manager, I understand these legislative priorities are essential for the Commonwealth’s cities and towns.”

The letter is signed by 20 municipal and community leaders including Mayors, Town Managers, City Councilors, Selectmen and Energy Directors from across the Commonwealth. This includes signatures from officials representing Arlington, Ashland, Becket, Cambridge, Foxborough, Framingham, Lexington, Melrose, New Bedford, Newton, Northampton, Quincy, Salem, Somerville, Williamstown and Worcester.

“As a City Council Member and a solar homeowner myself, I have seen the power of solar to benefit families, communities and our environment,” said Framingham City Council Member, Adam Steiner. “Solar is a critical part of our local economy and our commitment to making our environment cleaner, but we need continued leadership from our state leaders to keep solar on track. We hope they will heed our letter and act quickly on these important solar policies.”

“Solar offers Arlington the chance to save money on our electric bills, boost our local economy and invest in a cleaner environment – all at once. The same is true for our local residents when they choose solar,” said Arlington Town Manager, Adam Chapdelaine. “This letter is us asking state leaders to continue to be partners in supporting our economy by passing critical solar policies this year as they have in the past.” 

In the letter, municipal leaders pushed for action on the following policies: 

  • Remove the caps on solar net metering or raise them by at least 5 percent – Net metering makes sure municipalities, families and businesses get fair, full credit on their energy bills for valuable solar electricity they deliver to the grid for use nearby. It has been a year and a half since the net metering cap for private and community shared projects in National Grid’s service territory was hit, slamming the brakes on hundreds of solar projects in more than 170 cities and towns. More of the caps have been hit since. The net metering caps should be removed entirely or must at least be raised by 5 percent to match the 1,600 megawatt (MW) supported by the new Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program.
  • Repeal Eversource’s new solar “Demand Charge” – Earlier this year, the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) approved Eversource’s proposal to tax solar customers using a complicated new electric rate structure – called a demand charge. This will make solar less economic and make new solar customers’ bills more unpredictable in the future. National Grid, the Commonwealth’s other large utility is working on their own charge as we speak that may even change the economics for existing solar customers. Without legislative action to strengthen the statute around a “Minimum Monthly Reliability Charge” this session, the residential solar market in the state will contract, leaving Massachusetts residents with less options for saving money on their electric bills, and creating an atmosphere of unpredictability for businesses hoping to make long-term investments in solar energy and solar jobs.
  • Raise the Renewable Portfolio Standard to 3 percent per year – In order to meet our ambitious climate pollution reduction goals and continue to develop a strong clean energy economy, we need to raise our Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to 3 percent per year. The RPS sends a signal to renewable energy developers, financiers and investors, and workers that the Commonwealth is open for business – and will remain open for business in years to come.

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