Massachusetts is in a solar conundrum. The state’s solar policies have been successful, very successful. They’ve created over 10 thousand jobs and are helping to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, but they’ve been so successful, they’re already set to sunset.
The legislature has tried to address the issues, but so far the state’s House and Senate haven’t been able to resolve the issues over two separately passed bills. Even the state’s governor weighed in with a bill designed as a compromise. Now 100 state Representatives (out of 160) have written a letter to the conference committee urging resolution.
The key issue has been cost and net-metering. Last November members of the state House voted for H.3854, a bill that, The Boston Globe explained, would have reduced net metering rate from the retail price of electricity to the wholesale price, however it would have made an exception for residential rooftops.Now they are asking their leadership to support a resolution that would keep the net-metering rate at retail for community solar, for those projects serving low-income residents and municipal projects. They also want to ensure that previously built systems are grandfathered so they produce benefits owners and investors expected.
The Representatives wrote: “Our offices have been contacted by constituents, municipalities and businesses that are concerned this legislation will lead to job losses, jeopardize environmental progress, and raise electricity bills. We respectfully request that you address these critical issues in the Conference Committee, and that the committee report a bill to raise the net metering caps as expeditiously as possible.”
The Representatives said they were concerned that reducing the value of net-metering “Will irreparably harm Massachusetts' solar industry and its 15,000 employees. Resetting all new solar projects to the wholesale net metering credit rate will make it prohibitively difficult to finance low-income, community shared solar or municipal projects.’ They added, “In addition, the transition to the wholesale rate for existing projects, while 20 years down the road, will lead to major bill increases for municipalities and other solar customers.”
“We support your desire to reduce costs. However, it is important to note that net metering credits are not subsidies, but rather compensation for the value provided by solar generation exported to the grid,” the Representatives explained. “The state's Massachusetts Net Metering & Solar Task Force determined last year that for every dollar solar costs ratepayers, it returns $2.20 in benefits. Therefore, we hope you will look to reduce costs not by arbitrarily cutting the net metering credit value, but rather by reforming the SREC program, which was designed to be an incentive for solar development.”
The recommendations of the Representatives was welcomed by supporters of the solar industry, including the Environmental League of Massachusetts and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). “Massachusetts was our nation's fourth largest builder of solar energy capacity in 2015, and much of the state's strong investment climate is due to successfully designed net metering policies allowing Massachusetts businesses to go solar,” said Sean Gallagher, SEIA vice president of state affairs. “However, the state has reached one of the net metering caps and as a result is seeing a reduction in solar installations. The Bay State…was home to $800 million in industry investment in 2015. We join members of the House of Representatives in asking House leadership and the full Massachusetts legislature to pass legislation at the earliest opportunity that will re-open the local solar market, restore investments in communities and allow local businesses to rehire workers who have lost their jobs as a result of the caps on net metering."Tweet