Solar Advocates Call Mass. Ruling A ‘Huge Step Backwards’

The Northeast Clean Energy Council (NECEC) and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) have expressed strong disappointment and serious concern with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities’ (DPU) recent decision to approve rate changes for Eversource Energy. Both organizations say they believe these changes will present obstacles to customers seeking to make clean energy choices, including the installation of solar and adoption of storage, energy efficiency and potentially electric vehicles.

As the groups explains, the new Monthly Minimum Reliability Contribution (MMRC) charge approved in the order will apply to new net energy metering (NEM) customers as of Dec. 31. It includes a higher customer charge and imposes demand charges on all NEM customers, including residential. According to the groups, this makes Massachusetts the first state commission to approve mandatory demand charges for residential customers.

Additionally – and in contrast with states around the country that have offered customers “time-of-use” (TOU) rates that signal to customers when it costs more to use electricity – the order eliminates optional residential TOU rates, the groups add. It also closes a TOU rate available to commercial and industrial customers as of Feb. 1, which is less than a month’s notice.

“This order is a huge step backwards for a state that was one of the early national leaders in grid modernization and solar policy. It will discourage customer adoption of clean energy across the commonwealth, further slowing clean energy job growth and investment and threatening to undermine the Baker-Polito administration’s goal to achieve another 1,600 MW of solar,” says Janet Gail Besser, executive vice president of the NCEC. “Mandating a demand charge for residential customers at this scale is unprecedented. These changes are particularly concerning because Eversource lacks the ‘smart’ metering needed to inform customers about their peak demand and energy usage.”

“This approval from the DPU is precedent-setting in all the wrong ways,” says Sean Gallagher, SEIA’s vice president of state affairs. “With a sweep of a pen, DPU has made it harder for customers to be properly informed on how to manage their electricity use. This is a step in the wrong direction for solar in the commonwealth and will undoubtedly make it tough for Massachusetts to reach its goal of installing another 1,600 MW of solar.”

NECEC and SEIA note they were pleased with the DPU’s decision not to consolidate commercial and industrial (C&I) rates at this time – which the groups claim would have significantly harmed municipal and other solar projects already in operation or development – as well as the decision to address extra charges related to interconnection upgrades in a new proceeding in 2018.

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