Governor Deval Patrick has signed into law the 2012 Energy Act. Among other provisions, this comprehensive energy bill raises the cap on an important solar program called “net metering.” Most solar electric installations are connected to the grid and feed excess power produced to other utility customers; net metering rules gives customers credit for extra power they generate. Solar advocates applauded the new net metering law, which will keep Massachusetts’ impressive solar growth on track and clear the way for the state to meet its renewable energy goals.
“SEIA applauds the leadership of Senator Ben Downing, Representative John Keenan, the Administration and other Legislators for expanding the net metering cap for Massachusetts electricity consumers. Already this summer, we’ve seen record high temperatures driving electricity demand through the roof. By clearing the way for more solar, we’re putting that same sunshine to work producing much-needed energy, local jobs and a cleaner environment,” said Carrie Cullen Hitt, Vice President of State Affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
The Massachusetts net metering program has successfully enabled thousands of homes, businesses and public agencies to go solar, save on their utility bills, and invest in the state’s local solar economy. Previous law, passed in 2008, required the state’s major electric utilities to make net metering available to customers until the total program capacity reached three percent of the utility’s peak demand. Parts of the state reached that restrictive cap this year, effectively stymieing continued solar investment. The 2012 Energy Act increases participation in the program to six percent, split equally between public and private energy projects, clearing the way to deploy more solar, reduce energy costs for customers and create more jobs in the state.
“Net metering has played a tremendous role in making Massachusetts the solar success it is today. By extending this important consumer right to more Bay Staters, this Act will keep Massachusetts going solar. We thank policymakers for putting the state’s sunshine to work producing much-needed energy, local jobs and a healthier environment for us all,” said Hannah Masterjohn, Policy Advocate at Vote Solar, a national grassroots organization.
“Despite the achievements of the 2012 Energy Act, however, the Legislature failed to address a critical property tax issue, causing some uncertainty for solar energy consumers and developers. We look forward to working with the Massachusetts Municipal Association, the Patrick Administration and the Legislature to resolve this critical issue,” added Hitt.
Net metering adds no costs to the state’s general fund. In fact, it benefits the state budget by allowing Massachusetts schools and public agencies to reduce operating costs through savings from solar installations on their properties. Massachusetts is one of 43 states that have adopted net metering laws to encourage development of solar and other small renewable energy systems.
The U.S. solar energy industry employs 100,000 Americans at more than 5,600 companies, mostly small businesses, across the nation in all 50 states.