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Mass Gov's proposed solar legislation has pluses and minuses

While Massachusetts boasts one of the strongest solar industries in the country – thanks in large part to good state policies – looming net metering caps could kill rooftop solar in the state if they’re not raised.

Legislators and Gov. Charlie Baker understand that all too well. The senate passed legislation in July to raise net metering caps. And the governor filed a bill to do the same last week. While solar advocates applaud the efforts, they also criticize the governor’s proposal as short sighted.


Massachusetts solar customers are currently credited at the retail rate for the excess power they feed onto the grid. Current policy caps the amount of net metering utility companies have to allow. Gov. Baker’s proposed legislation would increase the caps to allow the state to reach its 1,600-megawatt solar goal. But his proposal also calls for reducing net metering benefits beyond that 1,600-megawatt goal so home and business owners who install rooftop solar systems would be reimbursed at the wholesale energy-only rate, which doesn’t take into account any transmission or infrastructure savings created by distributed generation.

“Parts of the proposed bill’s long-term approach to compensating renewable distributed generation are concerning because they undervalue the local, clean, reliable energy that solar projects deliver to our electric grid,” Solar Energy Industries Association Vice President of State Affairs Sean Gallagher said in a statement.

SEIA expressed some surprise at the governor’s position given the state’s strong leadership position in the solar industry. With more than 6,000 people employed by solar and solar-related businesses in Massachusetts, undermining this growing industry could cause economic troubles beyond the solar industry, caution some solar advocates.

“SEIA urges policymakers to join other states that are leading on solar, such as New York and California, which are figuring out how to fairly compensate customers who go solar even as they move to the next generation of solar policies," Gallagher said.

The senate legislation to raise the net metering caps sets better long-term policy goals that will contribute to the sustained strength and growth of the new clean energy industry that has flourished in Massachusetts over the last several years. And, even if it's flawed, solar advocates are happy to see the governor looking out for the near-term growth of the state's strong rooftop solar industry.