A previous post, Massachusetts Net Metering and Solar Policy Status and Next Steps , addressed the Net Metering and Solar Task Force report and outlined some considerations for reforms going forward. Front and center right now is the issue of statutory net metering caps,* which limit the amount of solar that can be credited for generating electricity.
These caps have been reached in National Grid’s service territory, which is preventing municipal, community-shared, and low-income solar projects from moving forward in 171 cities and towns across the Commonwealth. Policymakers in the Baker Administration and Legislature have made it clear that the caps, although arbitrary, cannot be lifted until there is a long-term framework in place that resolves any problems with the current system. At a hearing before the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy on June 2, Acadia Center and many other stakeholders encouraged legislators to move forward on this issue.
The majority position represented in the Net Metering and Solar Task Force report outlined a sensible, high-level approach but many more details are necessary for concrete implementation. Since the release of the Task Force report on April 30th, Acadia Center has engaged extensively with a range of colleagues to determine the best way to move forward. Prior to the June 2nd hearing, the product of those discussions was released —the “Next Generation Solar Policy Framework for Massachusetts .”
This framework, now endorsed by 52 organizations–spanning sustainable energy and environmental advocates, labor, solar developers, business groups and community groups–presents a detailed and sensible approach for reforms to the current system that will allow MA to lift the caps soon and eventually eliminate them. The key aspects of the proposal are:
- Lift caps on solar development;
- Preserve key aspects of Massachusetts’ net metering and virtual net metering programs;
- Phase in a new system of distribution credits and a new “energy system benefit credit” for solar generators based on analysis of the long-run net costs and benefits of solar generation to the electric grid. These changes should be phased in based on availability of appropriate and cost-effective metering and billing mechanisms, and the right of individuals to produce clean electricity for their own consumption must be respected. The credits for generation and transmission would remain the same as current policy.
- 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.
What are the Next Steps?
At the June 2nd hearing, there was a widespread show of support among stakeholders and legislators testifying for lifting the net metering caps. Many of the bills currently up for discussion would lift the net metering caps and promote solar, but do not contain many of the essential elements necessary for long-term reforms. Acadia Center and our allies are working to build support so that the Committee will soon take up and pass a comprehensive bill that encompasses the ideas presented in the Next Generation Solar Policy Framework for Massachusetts. Moving these measures forward is an important piece of the effort to advance a low-carbon, consumer-friendly energy future.
* Net metering allows customers to generate their own electricity (through, for example, a rooftop solar PV system) in order to offset their electricity usage. Net metering can lower a customer’s electricity bill by reducing the amount of electricity that the customer buys from the distribution company (the utility). Net metering allows customers to receive credits for any electricity that they generate but do not use. Each distribution company in MA has a cap, and after it is hit, no more customers can use net metering. Small systems, primarily those under 10 kW of capacity, are exempt from the caps. For more info see: http://www.mass.gov/eea/grants-and-tech-assistance/guidance-technical-assistance/agencies-and-divisions/dpu/net-metering-faqs.html#6