Current NEM Caps Are Stalling Solar Growth In Massachusetts, Says SEIA

More than $78 million in solar projects are on hold in Massachusetts due the state’s current net energy metering (NEM) caps, according to new analysis from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). SEIA says it and Massachusetts partner organizations are convening at the state capitol on Oct. 3 and testifying in support of two bills that would raise the NEM caps. The waiting list totals 124 projects, which have a capacity of 51.2 MW and could power nearly 5,400 homes.

“Massachusetts has been one of our nation’s clean energy leaders, but one of its fastest-growing industries is being stifled by delayed action on net metering,” says Sean Gallagher, SEIA’s vice president of state affairs. “With projects now on hold in more than half the state, the legislature should raise the net metering caps this year. Doing so will ensure significant investment in the commonwealth, create new jobs, protect thousands more, and help meet the governor’s clean energy goals.”

According to SEIA, the Massachusetts counties with the largest stranded investment include Berkshire County ($28.1 million), Worcester County ($12.8 million) and Hampshire County ($9.1 million). Three of the state’s utilities, including National Grid, WMECO, and Unitil, have reached NEM caps in their service territories.

Under Massachusetts’ current policy, only a certain percentage of a utility’s total distribution load can use NEM, a policy that allows businesses and other end-users to get credit for the electricity they generate and send to the power grid. They are only billed for their “net” energy use. The Massachusetts NEM caps apply to commercial, industrial, public and community solar projects. This means entities such as school districts, municipal buildings, and small and large businesses that want to adopt solar and take advantage of its benefits are unable to do so when the caps have been met, SEIA notes.

To provide the long-term certainty needed for businesses to grow, SEIA, on behalf of its more than 45 member companies in Massachusetts, is proposing raising the statewide NEM cap by 5% for public and private projects, the same level proposed in the bills S. 1824/H. 2712.

SEIA says this cap increase, in conjunction with the state’s solar incentive program, SMART, would help solar companies install more than 1,000 MW of solar by 2022, which is necessary to meet Governor Baker’s goal of doubling the size of Massachusetts’ solar market, which today ranks sixth in the nation with 1,743 MW of installed solar capacity.

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