On Wednesday, more than 100 solar workers from across Massachusetts rallied at the Massachusetts State House to urge the legislature to act in support of the state’s solar industry.
According to Vote Solar, the solar industry employs more than 11,500 people in Massachusetts and has brought more than $5 billion of investment to the local economy in the last few years. With the end of the legislative session quickly approaching on July 31, the need for the legislature to take action comes at a critical time for the commonwealth’s solar industry, which continues to fend off attacks at the state and federal levels, says Vote Solar.
Organized by Vote Solar, MassSolar, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the Coalition for Community Solar Access and the Solar Energy Business Association of New England, more than 60 meetings were held with legislators and staff to urge them to support the commonwealth’s solar workforce through action on net metering caps, the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Targets (SMART) program tariff and the renewable portfolio standard (RPS), as well as undo the poorly designed monthly minimum reliability contribution charge on new solar customers in Eversource territories across the state.
“For longer than a decade, Massachusetts’ solar success has led to consumer savings, economic growth, job creation and environmental benefits. These benefits are at risk due to an uncertain policy environment that threatens the state’s solar industry,” says Sean Garren, Northeast senior director at Vote Solar. “Already, Massachusetts has lost more than 3,000 solar jobs across the state in the last two years. We need the legislature to help get the commonwealth back on track by standing up and reversing Eversource’s solar tax and raising the caps that limit the number of residents and businesses who can enjoy the benefits of solar through net metering.”
According to a recent report by The Solar Foundation, solar jobs in Massachusetts – after nearly a decade of growth – saw a double-digit decline in 2017 for the second consecutive year. One factor that has contributed to this decline is the existing law that places a cap on net metering participation, says Vote Solar. It has been a year and a half since the net metering cap for public, private and community shared projects in National Grid’s service territory was hit, which has slammed the brakes on hundreds of solar projects in more than 170 cities and towns, the group explains.
As part of their meetings with legislators, solar advocates and employers urged that the caps be removed or raised by at least 5% to match the SMART program, as is the case in proposed legislation, including H.2712, S.1824, S.1831 and other bills.
“Solar businesses need a stable market to successfully operate. In Massachusetts, the legislature and the governor can create that stability by reversing the unsupported Eversource rate decision, raising the net metering caps and making sure the new SMART program works as intended,” says Dave Gahl, SEIA’s director of state affairs for the Northeast. “We are urging lawmakers to listen to the thousands of solar workers employed here in the commonwealth demanding smarter solar policies. The time to act is now. The Massachusetts solar industry depends on it.”
Local jobs, taxpayer savings, reduced electric bills and public health benefits are being lost every day as solar companies face serious decisions about whether to continue to invest in Massachusetts, which will become an uncertain market without this critical legislation, according to Vote Solar. In particular, the recent approval by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) of Eversource’s proposal to tax solar customers using a complicated new electric rate structure – a demand charge – has made solar less economic and new solar customers’ bills more unpredictable in the future, the group explains. To address this, a proposed bill (S.2314) would repeal Eversource’s solar tax and set new parameters for any charges like it.
“As a Massachusetts solar worker, I love helping customers save money while knowing we’re protecting the environment at the same time,” says Keisha Perez, senior regional sales manager at Sunrun. “My message to our lawmakers is to continue allowing the Massachusetts solar industry to succeed by raising the net metering caps and eliminating Eversource’s solar demand charge.”