It’s Official: Massachusetts Gov. Signs Solar Compromise Into Law

Posted by Joseph Bebon on April 11, 2016 No Comments
Categories : Policy Watch

As expected, Gov. Charlie Baker, R-Mass., has signed bi-partisan legislation to raise the state’s net energy metering (NEM) cap by 3%. The compromise bill, which overwhelmingly passed both the state Senate and House of Representatives last week, was the result of a months-long negotiation period.

“This legislation builds upon the continued success of the commonwealth’s solar industry and ensures a viable, sustainable and affordable solar market at a lower cost to ratepayers,” says Baker in a press release. “As our administration continues its balanced approach to diversifying Massachusetts’ energy portfolio, solar development will be an integral component of our state’s clean energy future.”

As Massachusetts utilities either reached or moved closer to hitting their allotted NEM limits, both chambers of the legislature approved bills to increase the NEM cap last year. Nonetheless, a conference committee had failed to reconcile the bills’ differences for several months. After a big lobbying effort from officials and solar advocates, the committee recently revealed a compromise bill, and the Senate and House quickly approved it.

Before this new legislation, utilities’ NEM caps were 4% of peak load for private installations and 4% of peak load for public installations. The law now increases those caps by 3%.

Under the compromise legislation, residential, small commercial and municipal solar projects will continue receiving retail NEM rates, but new community and large commercial projects will receive wholesale rates, which are estimated to be about 40% lower. Existing projects will be grandfathered in under retail rates.

“Solar energy generation is a critical component of our overall energy portfolio,” says Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, in a press release. “This bill reflects a careful attempt to provide sufficient incentives to move solar energy production forward while controlling them to prevent ratepayers from shouldering too great a cost burden for this worthwhile policy goal.”

“In supporting pro-solar policies, Governor Baker and the legislature showed laudable leadership and a commitment to restarting an economic engine in Massachusetts,” comments Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association, in a statement. “We are proud to be a part of the coalition that helped push these initiatives over the finish line, and we can’t wait to start delivering again on the promise of clean air and well-paying jobs that solar energy offers.”

Carine Dumit, a representative of Energy Freedom Coalition of America (EFCA) member company SolarCity, says the coalition commends the legislators for their work and the law “will get the solar industry up and running again.”

On the other hand, Dumit adds that the law “includes some worrisome elements,” such as the rate cuts for some projects.

“We are also concerned about the short-term nature of the compromise but look forward to working with the legislature going forward to ensure that all Massachusetts ratepayers can access and benefit from solar energy. However, this bill presents significant progress, and we commend the governor for signing this expeditiously.”

Photo courtesy of Gov. Baker’s Twitter account.

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