Today (March 23) the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) said it will extend the state’s Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC 2) program—for now. The move is a short-term fix as the state prepares to implement a long-term plan to incentivize rooftop solar on homes that makes customers and utilities happy.
While advocates supported the extension of the SREC 2 program, which they’ve credited with supporting more than 1.6 gigawatts of rooftop solar, they were also quick to point out that two utility service territories already have waiting lists because net-metering caps in their service areas were reached.
"The solar industry applauds Massachusetts Governor Baker and the Department of Energy Resources, led by Commissioner Judith Judson, for their efforts to extend the Solar Renewable Energy Credit 2 program,” said Sean Gallagher, vice president of State Affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association. "With this extension now on the books, we are asking the Baker Administration and lawmakers to support an increase to the Commonwealth’s net metering caps. We look forward to working with the Legislature and the Governor to enact legislation raising the caps this year.”
Net-metering, or allowing utility customers with solar to be reimbursed for the energy their solar panels put back on the grid, is one of the key incentives that are helping consumers achieve energy savings with rooftop solar power. Utilities have opposed such provisions even as they become more popular saying such incentives raise rates for all their customers and force those customers without solar panels to pay for those with them. However, rooftop solar panels can help utilities avoid the costs of adding more expensive infrastructure proponents argue.
“Solar is delivering economic and environmental benefits to Massachusetts, with tens of thousands of solar jobs, millions of dollars in energy savings and significant reductions in our air and water pollution,” said Nathan Phelps, program manager of Distributed Generation Regulatory Policy at Vote Solar. “The Commonwealth is on the path to a bright solar future, and we applaud the Baker Administration for seeking to avoid a bump in the trail with this extension. Whether solar remains on that path will depend on the administration and legislature lifting limits on net-metering and creating a viable new incentive program.”
The new program will include net-metering, according to DOER’s Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Final Program Design issued in January. But that program is not in effect yet.
"With the transition to the successor incentive program now confirmed, businesses, municipalities, and residents will continue to find the value and opportunity to build solar projects that will preserve local jobs and provide economic, energy and environmental benefits to the Commonwealth," said Northeast Clean Energy Council President Peter Rothstein.