Massachusetts net metering expansion bills

Monday, March 21, 2016

As Massachusetts solar energy legislation seems stalled over debate on the value of solar renewable energy credits, 100 state legislators have written to the Massachusetts House of Representatives leadership calling for "a bill to raise net metering caps as expeditiously as possible."  Governor Baker, the state House and Senate have each agreed to expand net metering programs, but legislation has yet to be fully enacted due to a lack of agreement over the separate SREC issue.

Solar panels on a rooftop in Massachusetts.

Massachusetts solar energy policy is at an inflection point, as the state's two most significant solar photovoltaic offerings -- net metering and the Department of Energy Resources SREC II program -- reach prescribed limits.

Current law caps public sector net metering at 5% of a distribution company's historical peak load, and private sector net metering at 4%.  Last year, Governor Charlie Baker and legislators agreed to increase each of these caps by another 2% of load. The Baker administration described An Act relative to a long-term, sustainable solar industry as maintaining:
strong support for solar generation in the Commonwealth by raising the private and public net metering caps two percent each, to six and seven percent, respectively. The enhancement of cap space represents a 50% increase for public entities, and a 40% increase for private entities, in the allowable amount of solar energy available for net metering credits. This increase will provide immediate support for projects being developed in service territories where the caps have already been reached, and provides the Department of Public Utilities with the authority to raise the caps further, as needed in the future.
In the last legislative session, the Massachusetts House and Senate each passed a similar bill expanding net metering.  But because these bills differed on the reimbursement rate for solar renewable energy credits (SRECs), a conference committee must now try to find agreement between the versions if the concept is to advance. 

In an apparent attempt to prompt action from the conference committee, 100 state legislators signed a March 14, 2016, letter calling for a floor vote on a bill at the earliest opportunity.  The legislators described net metering credits as "compensation for the value provided by solar generation exported to the grid."  They articulated a pro-consumer net metering policy:
In our view, a strong net metering policy, at a minimum, calls for maintaining retail net metering credit value for preferred classes of projects, such as (1) community shared solar, (2) projects that serve low income housing and low-income ratepayers and (3) municipalities until an official, publicly scrutinized analysis of costs and benefits has been completed. In addition, we ask the Conference Committee to ensure grandfathering of existing systems. We also are in favor of the inclusion of new or expanded programs to achieve solar equity for low-income residents.
The legislators noted increased urgency given the filling up of the SREC II program.

The bills -- H.3854 and S.2058 -- are now before the Conference Committee.

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