SEIA backs Massachusetts plans to scrap net metering cap

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Proposed legislation submitted by the Masachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to the state governor calling for a change to Massachusetts’ net metering law has received the backing of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).

Along with the New England Clean Energy Council (NECEC), the SEIA believes that the new proposal, An Act Relative to Net Metering and Solar Power (H3901), reflects the consensus among Massachusetts’ renewable energy, utility and environmental stakeholders to commit to installing 1.6 GW of solar energy by 2020.

The DOER has been proactive in its efforts to improve consumer access to net metering and supporting the continuation of public and private distributed generation projects. Its lobbying efforts included the convening of a workshop group comprising renewable energy industry figureheads, utility executives and other key stakeholders to work together to draft a bill designed to eliminate the net metering cap in favor of a long-term solar financing and development program.

The changes proposed in the draft bill focus on altering the rules that govern distributed generation systems and how system owners are compensated for the energy they produce. The Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) program currently offers Massachusetts residents incentives to install distributed generation systems.

The bill proposes scrapping the cap on net metering completely, delivering to system owners a minimum bill rather than the current ‘monthly charge’. With net metering uncapped, system owners will be able send all of their excess power to the grid at retail rates, lowering their utility bills in the process. The proposal also advises that SRECs are phased out and replaced over the course of six months by a performance-based incentive.

"SEIA supports the legislation as it immediately relieves a short-term bottleneck on solar projects in Massachusetts by removing the caps on net metering," said SEIA’s senior vice president of state affairs, Carrie Cullen Hitt. "I commend the DOER and legislature for convening a process that sets a national precedent and will result in good public policy, improving the efficiency of the state’s solar program for all ratepayers.

"The legislation will reduce risk and create more certainty for solar developers, including many local companies."

NECEC president Peter Rothstein reiterated the council’s support for the legislation, saying it will enable more customers in Massachusetts to continue to have access to net metering for their solar PV systems. "The bill also sets the Massachusetts along the path to achieve Governor Patrick’s goal of 1.6 GW of solar energy by 2020, which will support the continued momentum for Massachusetts’ booming solar industry while ensuring that new solar projects are increasingly cost-effective for ratepayers."

The Bay state has enjoyed encouraging solar PV growth in recent years due in large parts to the SREC and net metering programs, which attracted solar developers and investors to the state. With 464 MW of solar PV currently installed, according to figures compiled in the latest Solar Market Insight Report from SEIA, Massachusetts ranks sixth nationwide for solar capacity.

Statewide, there are more than 8,400 people employed in the sector, with more than $780 million invested in solar installations on homes and businesses last year. This was a 50% increase on 2012, and SEIA is confident that similar growth will be recorded this year.