It is a critical time for solar energy in Massachusetts. The state House and Senate will be conferring on legislation that increases the cap on net metering – if the House version becomes law many large solar projects will be abandoned. So we need to make our voices heard!
Massachusetts is a national leader in solar electricity generation. For households that can’t invest in rooftop solar electricity, community solar installations are a key option.
Unfortunately, the amount of solar generation is limited by law and that limit for community solar has been reached in the parts of the state served by National Grid and Unitil. Utility companies are working to keep these caps in place while also reducing policies that make medium and large-scale solar projects viable.
Newton is served by Eversource, which has not yet hit the net metering caps. However, municipal solar projects advanced by the City of Newton and community solar projects—which serve renters and others who cannot put solar on their roof—are in danger.
The Massachusetts State Senate passed a strong solar bill in July increasing the limit on the amount of solar generating capacity, but the bill is in legislative conference with a Massachusetts house bill H.3854. The House bill would put a mandatory minimum charge on solar, raise the limit by only 2 percent, and cut the net metering reimbursement by 75% for sizeable projects (such as municipal and community shared solar). The House proposal is significantly worse for solar than legislation filed by Governor Baker, which would also enact significant cuts.
If H.3854 is enacted, many sizeable planned projects will be abandoned, and jobs and tax revenue will be lost. Recently, sharp cuts to solar compensation in Nevada resulted in an immediate loss of 550 solar jobs. (http://www.reuters.com/article/us-solarcity-employment-idUSKBN0UK1SA20160106)
Low-income residents and municipalities will be hurt most because many projects for apartment buildings, community shared solar, and municipal solar projects would never be built. Net metering is essential for many customers who do not or cannot receive the benefits of other energy programs, such as SRECs. (SRECs, available to owners of panels, are returned as a cash payment, and unavailable to residents of low-income housing or customers with power purchase agreements).
The House bill goes in the wrong direction at a time when it is more important than ever for renewable energy to be developed. This is why Green Newton strongly opposes the House bill and supports the Senate bill. What actually happens is up to the House-Senate conference.
Now is the time for Massachusetts citizens to weigh in.
This crucial issue will reach resolution soon. If you care about climate change as we do at Green Newton, contact your state legislator. In Newton they are Senator Cynthia Creem and Representatives Kay Khan, Ruth Balser, and John Lawn.
Contact Senator Creem and your state representative, and strongly urge them to fight for solar energy by eliminating the net metering cap, ensuring power sold back to the grid is fairly compensated, and making sure there is no mandatory fee for producing solar energy.
If you are not sure who your state representative is, go to this link: https://malegislature.gov/People/Search
Get your friends and family to help!
The Newton delegation is on the right side of this issue, but they need to hear from us to strengthen their support for the right solar legislation. But we also need to urge other members of the legislature to do the right thing on this issue. So contact your friends and family in other parts of the state and ask them to contact their own senator and representative.