After a last push to pass comprehensive solar legislation last week, Massachusetts lawmakers worked into the wee hours of the morning on the final day of session to instead pass S.2214, a bill that’s focused on raising the looming cap on the state’s successful net metering program. While it is not as robust as H.4185, which would have removed the caps on net metering altogether and memorialized the state’s 1,600 megawatt (“MW”) by 2020 solar goal, S.2214 does send an important signal to the state’s vibrant solar industry – namely, that Massachusetts is committed to its growing solar market.
Net metering is the simple and straightforward policy that provides Bay Staters with full credit on their energy bills for the valuable clean electricity they deliver to the grid for use nearby. Specifically, S.2214 raises the net metering cap for local governments from 3 to 5 percent of a distribution company’s peak load and raises the cap for business and private sector installations from 3 to 4 percent. This provides critical relief as government entities have already reached their caps in parts of the state – with businesses not far behind. This interim cap raise offers a welcome contrast to the many states across the country where we are fighting to protect net metering programs altogether. It’s clear that Massachusetts sees real value in its new solar economy and the proven policies that are supporting it.
S.2214 will keep the state’s solar market from grinding to a halt in the near term – but with strong solar growth ahead, there is no question that the state will need to continue its consideration of a long-term, sustainable plan for its net metering program. Recognizing this imperative, S.2214 also establishes a net metering task force to review the long-term viability of net metering and to develop recommendations for policies and programs that will support continued solar deployment. Comprising a diverse mix of stakeholders, the task force is required to report its findings, along with any recommendations for legislative or regulatory reforms, back to the legislature by March 31, 2015.
With the majority of residential and small commercial systems already exempt from the state’s net metering caps (see FAQ #55), we agree that it will be vital to undertake comprehensive consideration of policies and programs to ensure that all aspects of the state’s solar market continue to thrive. Indeed, negotiations over the past several months around the compromise solar legislation (H.4185) clearly demonstrated that the state’s solar market comprises diverse value propositions for a variety of customer segments. And that’s a good thing! In Massachusetts and all across the country, we think the strongest market is one that allows as many participants as possible to invest in and benefit from solar power.
We look forward to working with all stakeholders as this process unfolds over the coming year. For the moment, however, we’ll enjoy a cup of chowda as we celebrate that more Bay Staters can choose solar thanks to S.2214.