Over 100 solar workers from across the Commonwealth rallied at the Massachusetts State House to urge the Legislature to act in support of the state’s solar industry. The solar industry employs more than 11,500 people in Massachusetts, and has brought more than $5 billion of investment to the local economy in the last few years. With the end of the legislative session quickly approaching on July 31, the need for the Legislature to take action comes at a critical time for the Commonwealth’s solar industry, which continues to fend off attacks at the state and federal levels.
Organized by Vote Solar, MassSolar, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA) and the Solar Energy Business Association of New England (SEBANE), workers and leaders from the solar industry held over 60 meetings with legislators and staff to urge them to support the Commonwealth’s solar workforce through action on the net metering caps, SMART program tariff, the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and undoing the poorly designed Monthly Minimum Reliability Contribution (MMRC) charge on new solar customers in Eversource territories across the state.
“For longer than a decade, Massachusetts’ solar success has led to consumer savings, economic growth, job creation and environmental benefits. These benefits are at risk due to an uncertain policy environment that threatens the state’s solar industry,” said Sean Garren, Northeast senior director at Vote Solar. “Already, Massachusetts has lost more than 3,000 solar jobs across the state in the last two years. We need the Legislature to help get the Commonwealth back on track by standing up and reversing Eversource’s solar tax and raising the caps that limit the number of residents and businesses who can enjoy the benefits of solar through net metering.”
According to a recent report by The Solar Foundation, solar jobs in Massachusetts—after nearly a decade of growth—saw a double-digit decline in 2017 for the second consecutive year. One factor that has contributed to this decline is the existing law places a cap on net metering participation, which prevents customers from choosing to install solar. It has been a year and a half since the net metering cap for public, private and community shared projects in National Grid’s service territory was hit, slamming the brakes on hundreds of solar projects in more than 170 cities and towns. As part of their meetings with legislators, solar advocates and employers urged that the caps be removed or raised by at least 5% to match the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Targets (SMART) program, as is the case in proposed legislation including H. 2712, S. 1824, S. 1831 and other bills.
“Solar businesses need a stable market to successfully operate. In Massachusetts, the Legislature and the Governor can create that stability by reversing the unsupported Eversource rate decision, raising the net metering caps and making sure the new SMART Program works as intended,” said Dave Gahl, SEIA’s director of state affairs for the Northeast. “We are urging lawmakers to listen to the thousands of solar workers employed here in the Commonwealth demanding smarter solar policies. The time to act is now. The Massachusetts solar industry depends on it.”
Local jobs, taxpayer savings, reduced electric bills and public health benefits are being lost every day as solar companies face serious decisions about whether to continue to invest in Massachusetts, which will become an uncertain market without this critical legislation. In particular, the recent approval by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) of Eversource’s proposal to tax solar customers using a complicated new electric rate—called a demand charge—has made solar less economic and new solar customers’ bills more unpredictable in the future. To address this, a proposed bill (S. 2314) would repeal Eversource’s solar tax and set new parameters for any charges like it. This legislation is critical as it would give solar companies and customers the confidence to continue to invest in Massachusetts.
“As a Massachusetts solar worker, I love helping customers save money, while knowing we’re protecting the environment at the same time,” said Keisha Perez, senior regional sales manager, Sunrun Inc. “My message to our lawmakers is to continue allowing the Massachusetts’ solar industry to succeed by raising the net metering caps and eliminating Eversource’s solar demand charge.”
Beyond addressing the net metering caps and reversing the Eversource solar tax, businesses and developers highlighted the importance of a strong SMART program and RPS to continue to drive demand for solar energy. Companies and workers urged legislators to press the DPU to ensure that the SMART program—the next iteration of the state’s solar incentive strategy—moves forward quickly and continues the growth of community, low-income, municipal and other public entity solar. In order to meet the Commonwealth’s climate pollution reduction goals and continue to develop a strong clean energy economy, advocates also urged legislators to raise the state’s RPS to 3% per year.
“I’m so proud of the Nexamp team and what they have built over the past decade. As a homegrown company, it’s incredibly rewarding to know that nearly 100 Massachusetts residents wake up each morning on a mission to help transform the energy grid, deploy local renewable energy resources, and deliver meaningful cost savings to thousands of customers on behalf of Nexamp,” said Zaid Ahmad Ashai, CEO, Nexamp. “However, as we expand into new markets, it’s never been clearer that the future of the clean energy economy in the Commonwealth depends entirely on the continued steadfast support of the Legislature and the Baker Administration.”
In addition to the many economic, health and environmental benefits that it brings to the Commonwealth, solar energy continues to increase in popularity among Massachusetts residents. Polling consistently shows that solar is citizens’, voters’ and ratepayers’ top choice among power generation options. Recent polling in Massachusetts shows that, by margins of 3 and 4 to 1, voters support solar and support raising the net metering caps. Inaction by the Legislature not only puts the vitality and growth of the solar industry in Massachusetts at risk, but it will threaten a popular alternative energy source that has enabled consumers, businesses, municipalities, schools, public agencies and non-profits to reduce their electricity bills and take control of their energy usage.
News item from Vote Solar