Update: Governor Charlie Baker signed “An Act to Advance Clean Energy” (H. 4857), a six part bill which includes the elimination of mandatory, punitive demand charges for solar customers in Massachusetts, on August 9.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) commented on the Massachusetts Legislature’s passage of a bill that requires the state’s largest electricity utility to refile its plan to charge extra fees to solar adopters and raises the state’s renewable energy goal.
The bill addresses a decision by the Massachusetts’ Department of Public Utilities (DPU) that would have allowed Eversource to impose complex fees on consumers who go solar. The legislation also encourages greater use of solar state-wide, raising the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard by an additional 2% per year through 2029.
However, the bill failed to raise the statewide caps on net metering for non-residential customers, which has been critical to solar success in the Commonwealth. The caps have been hit in three utilities’ service territories, stalling projects throughout the state. The bill is now headed to the Governor’s desk.
Following is a statement from Sean Gallagher, SEIA’s vice president of state affairs:
“Massachusetts lawmakers showed that solar consumers should not be punished with complicated fees, rejecting a decision that would have halted solar growth in the Commonwealth. Allowing utilities to discriminate against homeowners simply for adding solar to their roofs is always the wrong decision, which is why it hasn’t worked in other states.
“However, the bill failed to raise the net metering caps, a move that means some Bay State businesses and communities who want to go solar are unable to do so. Across the state, solar projects, jobs and millions of dollars of investment remain stalled. Nevertheless, the bill overturns a wayward ruling that would have hurt consumers and raises the state’s renewable energy goals, which is why the Governor should sign this bill.”
The Northeast Clean Energy Council (NECEC) commends the passage of An Act to Advance Clean Energy, which includes a number of actions that will support the clean energy industry in Massachusetts. With nearly unanimous votes in the House and Senate, NECEC calls upon Governor Charlie Baker to sign the legislation into law and looks forward to working with lawmakers to resolve issues such as net metering, not included in the bill.
“The final bill represents a continued commitment to clean energy leadership in Massachusetts,” said NECEC president Peter Rothstein. “We are at a pivotal point where key policy changes are needed to ensure that markets here continue to flourish and accelerate clean energy, including solar, wind, advanced energy storage, energy efficiency, peak demand reduction and more. This legislation is a step in the right direction and we look forward to continued collaboration with lawmakers to ensure that Massachusetts remains a leader in this sector.”
“We are pleased to see that this bill targets some of our top clean energy priorities: increasing the Renewable Portfolio Standard, expanding energy efficiency and spurring development of energy storage,” said NECEC executive VP Janet Gail Besser. “However, while it helpfully clarifies the structure for new charges for solar customers, there remains uncertainty in the Commonwealth’s solar market due to caps on net metering that have been hit. Overall this legislation is a positive step forward and will spark more growth in the clean energy economy Massachusetts has built over the last decade.”
Evan Dube, a senior policy director with Sunrun and spokesperson for The Alliance for Solar Choice, issued the following statement:
“Thank you to lawmakers in the House and Senate for acting to reject anti-consumer demand charges and ensuring homeowners and residents can continue to invest in solar energy. Massachusetts has become the latest state to stop mandatory punitive demand charges, which have been rejected virtually every time proposed across the country. State policymakers showed tremendous leadership to maintain fair, commonsense billing methods that are good for consumers and support the growth of solar in the state.”
Zaid Ashai, CEO of Massachusetts-based solar installer Nexamp, issued the following statement:
“Although this bill delivers modest advancements for clean energy in the Bay State, it leaves crucial issues facing the solar industry unaddressed” said Ashai. “In failing to raise net metering caps and sufficiently counteract utility proposals for new fees on solar customers, the compromise inexplicably neglects an opportunity to deliver clarity to solar developers and their customers on the eve of the SMART program.”
Vote Solar, MassSolar, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA), the Solar Energy Business Association of New England (SEBANE) and the Northeast Clean Energy Council (NECEC), issued the following statement:
“We thank the Legislature for reaching agreement on legislation that will address a number of necessary clean energy policies. An important portion of this legislation was addressing Eversource’s confusing and damaging new charge on solar customers, which had been approved by the Department of Public Utilities. This unprecedented residential ‘demand charge’ would have drastically slowed residential solar growth and made solar customers’ bills higher and completely unpredictable. This legislation represents a rejection of this type of charge for solar and residential customers. In addition, increasing the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) strengthens the foundation for renewable energy success and lets the world know Massachusetts remains open for clean energy business.
“But small commercial and business solar projects across the Commonwealth will remain stalled as the legislation leaves a needless barrier to customer adoption of solar, caps on Massachusetts’ most successful solar program, net metering, in place. With just hours left in the session, it appears the urgent action needed to get solar back to work for the Commonwealth will wait for another year.
“For longer than a decade, Massachusetts’ solar success has led to consumer savings, economic growth, job creation and environmental benefits. We appreciate the conference committee’s work on addressing Eversource’s solar charge and the RPS and we look forward to rolling up our sleeves together again tomorrow to make lasting progress for clean energy in Massachusetts.”
The Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA) issued the following statement:
“We appreciate the efforts of the Massachusetts legislature passing key renewable energy provisions as part of ‘An Act to Advance Clean Energy.’ However, we are disappointed that caps to net metering remain in place and that no community solar provisions have been adopted as part of the legislation,” said Brandon Smithwood, CCSA’s policy director. “Community solar in Massachusetts is now fully dependent on the SMART tariff, which is awaiting a final decision from the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities. The utilities have proposed arbitrary limits to customer participation and we’re looking to the Department and the Baker administration to ensure that this limitation is rejected and that community solar can continue grow and provide equitable access to solar for all customers in the Commonwealth.”
Updated at 1:03 p.m. ET