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.”
Photo courtesy of Gov. Baker’s Twitter account.