Boston, MA – In advance of a hearing today on solar policy at the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy Committee at the Massachusetts legislature, forty-four organizations, including sustainable energy and environmental advocates, solar developers, public health organizations, and community groups, are proposing the Next Generation Solar Policy Framework for Massachusetts. This framework would put us on a pathway to a self-sustaining solar industry that can help our state continue a record of success on jobs inside and outside the solar industry, meet its energy and environmental goals, and ensure all citizens and communities have access to solar resources. As a part of this framework, these organizations are also calling on the General Court and Governor Baker’s Administration to raise the net metering caps that are currently stopping community shared, low-income, municipal and other solar projects in 171 cities and towns across Massachusetts.

Today, the Massachusetts solar industry supports more than 12,000 jobs, according to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. Many businesses and jobs are at risk due to net metering caps that have stalled many solar projects in National Grid’s service territory, and layoffs are already starting to take place. Legislative action is needed to lift these caps. But political leaders have made it clear that some changes to existing solar programs will need to be made at the same time.

“It is indisputable that solar power is now part of the Commonwealth’s economic and energy future.” said Daniel L. Sosland, Acadia Center President. “This Framework will move us forward by providing for full and fair compensation for all parties, pivot towards a more modern and efficient rate structure, and allow continued expansion of solar as a resource for meeting local and regional energy needs.”

Key policy reforms described in the Next Generation Solar Policy Framework for Massachusetts:

  • Lift caps on solar development;
  • Preserve key aspects of Massachusetts’ net metering and virtual net metering programs;
  • Phase in new credits and charges for solar generators based on analysis of the long-run net costs and benefits of solar generation to the electric grid;
  • Establish a new “adjustable block” compensation mechanism that promotes more cost-effective solar development, provides more certainty for developers, and allows Massachusetts to pursue ambitious clean energy goals;
  • Avoid increased fixed charges and minimum bills, which penalize low-income customers and undermine efficiency incentives; and,
  • Appropriately grandfather existing projects under the policies under which they were built.

 

A range of solar organizations have united behind a set of broad principles for future solar policy in Massachusetts. The coalition behind the Next Generation Solar Policy Framework for Massachusetts builds on those shared principles by adding important details on how compensation mechanisms should be designed. The new framework preserves the best elements of the Commonwealth’s existing solar energy programs, while modifying the way that solar energy producers are compensated to more fully and fairly account for the benefits and costs that local solar resources offer to our energy grid. The framework includes a sustainable rate model for maintenance and modernization of the distribution grid.

“Critically, the Next Generation Solar Policy Framework preserves the existing virtual net metering mechanism, which gives everyone access to solar, including the 80% of households and businesses that don’t have their own sunny rooftop,” stated Emily Rochon, Director of Energy and Environmental Policy for Boston Community Capital. “Equal access to solar maximizes the potential to use solar to build healthier and more resilient communities and address the energy affordability challenges created by rising and volatile energy prices.”

Steven Strong, President of Solar Design Associates, argues: “With the International Monetary Fund recently publishing their findings that the fossil fuel industry is subsidized by over five trillion dollars a year, suggestions that solar is being unfairly subsidized are frankly absurd. We need a long-term solar policy framework that compensates the people who invest in solar fairly and fully for the value that their systems provide for all citizens of the Commonwealth and, with climate change accelerating faster than anyone thought possible, this is no time to slow down renewable energy development. While general policy goals that everyone agrees to are important, it’s also important for the legislature to get the details right in order to make sure that policy will be successful.”

“Distributed clean energy like solar is a critical component of Massachusetts’ commitment to fight climate change and reduce energy costs,” said Joel Wool, Energy Advocate with Clean Water Action. “By decentralizing power and capitalizing on free and abundant sunlight, we keep energy dollars local, stabilize prices, reduce health-threatening air pollution and distribute the economic benefits of renewable energy to communities from rural Berkshire towns to port cities on the South Coast.”

Mark LeBel, Staff Attorney at Acadia Center, who took the lead in drafting the framework said: “This proposal draws on a number of concepts shared between key stakeholders, but contributes important detail to achieve a balanced and equitable outcome, and avoids negative side effects on energy efficiency incentives and low-income customers. We look forward to continuing the discussion with all the other stakeholders. We hope the Legislature will act quickly to enact policies that will get the solar industry back to full capacity in Massachusetts and propel us into our clean energy future.”

For more information see: https://acadiacenter.org/document/next-generation-solar-policy-framework-for-ma/ 

Contact:

Mark LeBel, Staff Attorney, 617-742-0054 x104, mlebel@acadiacenter.org

Emily Avery-Miller, Director, External Relations, 617-742-0054 x100, eavery-miller@acadiacenter.org

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Acadia Center is a non-profit, research and advocacy organization committed to advancing the clean energy future. Acadia Center is at the forefront of efforts to build clean, low-carbon and consumer-friendly economies. Acadia Center provides accurate and reliable information, and offers a real-world and comprehensive approach to problem solving through innovation and collaboration.