MA net metering, Single Parcel and Subdivision rules

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Massachusetts utility regulators have opened an inquiry to review the current standards and procedures by which distributed generation projects seek exceptions to the net metering rules and regulations that generally require each facility to be sited on a single parcel of land.  The case could lead to changes in the Department of Public Utilities' Single Parcel Rule and Subdivision Rule.

On March 15, 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities issued an order opening an inquiry relating to the application of its net metering rules, which it docketed as DPU 17-22.  As described in that order, under Massachusetts statutes and regulations, "net metering allows customers to generate credits for excess electricity that net metering facilities generate."  The rules include limitations on the size of a generation facility eligible for net metering -- below 60 kW generally, or up to 2 MW for renewable projects (or 10 MW for certain public facilities).

Because the rules include project size limits, how you define the "facility" can affect its eligibility for net metering.  In one case, the Department established a "Single Parcel Rule", defining an eligible net metering facility as “the energy generating equipment associated with a single parcel of land, interconnected with the electric distribution system at a single point, behind a single meter." In 2016, the Department received 13 petitions seeking an exception to the Single Parcel Rule, an increase over three petitions in 2015 and one petition in 2014.

The Department also recognized if it was adopting parcel boundaries as a factor for defining a net metering facility, it should also set a date after which it would presume that the further subdivision of parcels was to game the net metering rule.  In its Subdivision Rule, the Department required that any customer who seeks to establish a net metering facility on a parcel of land that was subdivided after January 1, 2010, file a petition demonstrating that the subdivision was not for the purpose of creating multiple parcels specifically to support multiple net metering facilities.

But in a move that could lead to changes to these regulations, in its March 15 order opening inquiry, the Department identified a series of questions on which it seeks written comment.

Questions posed by the Department relate to the aggregation of capacity, blanket exemptions and case-by-case exemptions, the treatment of multiple facilities on one parcel, the treatment of a single facility on multiple parcels,  possible methods of streamlining submission and review of petitions for exceptions from the net metering rules and regulations, process requirements for petitions for exemptions, and challenges in allocating credits to multiple accounts and related solutions.

The Department has requested initial written comments no later than 5:00 p.m. on April 10, 2017.  It has also scheduled a technical conference for May 3, 2017.

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