The Price Of Solar Policy Inaction In Massachusetts

Posted by Joseph Bebon on March 31, 2016 No Comments
Categories : Featured, Policy Watch

Massachusetts lawmakers’ inaction on raising the state’s net energy metering (NEM) cap and reforming its solar renewable energy credit program has stopped construction of more than 500 solar projects valued at $617 million, which is costing cities and towns $3.2 million in annual tax revenues, according to analysis conducted by Vote Solar and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

According to the groups, it has been a year since utility National Grid reached its allotted NEM cap. More recently, caps have also been hit in Unitil and Eversource Energy territory, effectively grinding solar growth to a standstill in more than half the state.

The groups say stalled solar projects, which were intended to serve local businesses, low- and middle-income families, public agencies, nonprofit organizations and others, would have produced enough reliable solar energy to power 50,000 Massachusetts homes.

Without action from the legislature, Massachusetts can expect the number of stalled or cancelled solar projects – and related financial losses – to increase, according to the analysis. The groups say they showcase the data by legislative district and by community across Massachusetts so that legislators can see clearly the cost of inaction in their own backyards.

“Solar has become an integral part of the Massachusetts economy and job market,” comments Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs for SEIA. “The state is leaving jobs and money on the table and ceding its place in the booming solar energy market to other states.”

“Massachusetts has been burdened with some of the highest electricity rates in the country, and affordable solar offers families, schools and public agencies a way to manage their bills and invest in our local economy at the same time,” says Sean Garren, northeast regional manager for Vote Solar. “Now the sun is setting on that tremendous solar opportunity. We need quick action from state lawmakers to raise caps on the net metering program and ensure consumers receive full credit for their valuable solar investment.”

Although both the state House and Senate passed bills last year to raise the NEM cap, the House version would slash the current value of NEM credits by changing them from retail to wholesale rates; however, a committee has yet to reach a compromise on final legislation.

One hundred state representatives and 32 mayors and town managers recently called on members of the committee to finally follow through on raising the NEM caps and to keep the credits at the current retail rate.

SEIA and Vote Solar say that, prompted by falling costs, rising demand and strong state policy, the Massachusetts solar industry grew exponentially over the past few years. In 2015, Massachusetts installed 286 MW of solar electric capacity, ranking it fourth in the nation, and the state’s growing solar market supported more than 15,000 local jobs.

According to the solar groups, the NEM impasse has cast a shadow on this once-bright spot in the Massachusetts economy. Solar supporters continue to call on state leaders to raise the NEM cap and reignite solar investment in the state.

More information fro  the analysis is available at seia.org/keepsolarworking.

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