July 1, 2014
Massachusetts is close to dramatically expanding access to solar energy in the state. Can you urge your state lawmakers to get the job done?
Massachusetts is one of our nation’s great solar success stories having *doubled* the amount of solar installed in our state last year alone. Policymakers are looking to raise the bar yet again (all the details here).
A comprehensive solar energy bill (H.4185) was recently introduced into the Massachusetts House of Representatives. If passed, the bill will encourage more Bay Staters to go solar by removing the state’s caps on net metering, and by redesigning the state incentive program to bring online 1,600 megawatts (“MW”) of solar energy by 2020 – enough to power 260,000 homes in our state.
Net metering makes sure Bay Staters get full credit on their energy bills for valuable clean electricity they deliver to the grid for use nearby. State law puts a cap on our net metering program, and parts of the state are already hitting that limit. Unless state lawmakers act quickly, solar for our schools, local governments and businesses will grind to a halt.
Legislation making its way through the capitol would remove the net metering cap so Massachusetts can keep going solar. Take action here and urge state lawmakers to keep solar shining by passing H.4185!
Nathan + the Vote Solar team
23 Webster Street
June 27th, 2014
Dear Members of the Massachusetts Legislature,
As solar customers, civic organizations, environmental organizations, and clean energy businesses, we have a great interest in the continued growth and success of the Massachusetts solar energy industry. We are writing to express our strong support for expanding solar generated electricity and to highlight a number of critical concerns we have with provisions in H.4185 that could set back some of the Commonwealth’s most successful programs without a fair assessment of the value that solar provides to the grid and ratepayers.
Thanks to the leadership of Governor Patrick and the Legislature, Massachusetts’ solar policies have allowed the state to become a national leader in solar generated electricity. Solar’s success is evidenced by the doubling of solar generating capacity in 2013. With its potential to play a major role in transforming our electric grid, solar generated electricity can also play a major role in meeting the Commonwealth’s environmental goals and diversifying our energy mix while reducing our reliance on fossil fuels.
The draft legislation makes some significant improvements to the existing solar policy for generating electricity, specifically with regard to the constraints of the net metering cap. However, the proposed bill also sets the stage to undermine successful solar policies, particularly in its curtailments of virtual net metering and introduction of minimum bills. This letter serves to outline some of our specific and conceptual concerns for the proposed changes, as well as to propose changes to the draft legislation. As you consider this legislation, we urge you to bear in mind the following.
Any revision of Massachusetts’ solar policy must first fully acknowledge the tremendous value that solar generated electricity provides to the grid and to the people of Massachusetts. Furthermore, any changes to existing programs must be judged on whether they (1) expand access to solar generated electricity to all classes of customers, (2) protect customers from utility price volatility, (3) improve grid reliability and resiliency, and (4) achieve the Commonwealth’s environmental goals, particularly the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.
Changes to successful solar generated electricity programs must be done with a fair and accurate valuation of the benefits of distributed solar generated electricity. The legislation imposes minimum bills on customers (and allows utilities to recover undefined and unquantified costs) without fully assessing of the value that solar-generated electricity provides to the grid.
A growing number of studies demonstrate that the benefits of solar generated electricity — including fuel diversification, grid resiliency, energy price suppression and power quality improvements — can reduce, defer, or avoid the need to invest in grid maintenance and upgrades, thus saving money. While it is important to consider how utilities are paid for maintaining the distribution system, enacting a minimum bill absent an examination of the benefits that solar provides to the grid is premature.
For example, there are cost recovery provisions that are open-ended and that have the potential to reinforce the status quo and reduce the incentive for utilities to innovate and create an energy efficient, low-GHG economy.
Expanding access to solar generated electricity means preserving virtual net metering in its current form, not restricting it. Upwards of 80% of households (many of whom are low income voters) and businesses in Massachusetts cannot take advantage of solar generated electricity because they rent their property, lack adequate credit, or have a roof that is unsuitably sized or oriented or that is hindered by excessive shade from trees or other structures. Massachusetts’ existing virtual metering policy ensures that the benefits of solar generated electricity are available to everyone. Allowing virtual net metering facilitates the development of properties that are well-suited to solar generated electricity
The proposed legislation has provisions that could dramatically curtail the opportunities for net metering on community-shared solar projects As a result, the majority of Massachusetts’ residents and business will be disadvantaged in their ability to access solar. We urge you to support amendments that will provide the same benefits to community shared solar projects that virtual net metering provides today.
Solar policy should facilitate, not slow the advance of, a more energy-efficient and renewably powered Commonwealth. The current solar generated electricity policy framework imposes no restrictions on sizing for behind-the-meter systems, credits excess generation at the retail rate, and allows customers to virtually meter net metering credits to multiple accounts. The draft legislation would institute a load matching requirement for behind-the-meter projects, which could prove detrimental to energy efficiency and other load reduction measures given that solar electricity system owners will be unable to virtually meter and will receive less than the full retail rate for any excess kilowatt-hours generated.
Recommendation – We urge you to support a final bill that preserves the benefits of today’s successful programs while ensuring that utilities are not allowed to charge minimum bills without a full and fair assessment of the value that clean distributed solar generated electricity provides to the grid.
Thank you for your consideration. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have questions.
Rob Sargent, on behalf of Environment Massachusetts
Cindy Luppi, Clean Water Action
Nancy Goodman, Environmental League of Massachusetts
Peter Shattuck, ENE-Environment Northeast
Larry Chretien, Mass Energy Consumers Alliance
Deirdre Cummings, Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG)
Ed Woll, Sierra Club, Massachusetts Chapter
John Harper, Birch Tree Capital
Mark Sandeen, Repower Partners
Fred Unger, Heartwood Group, Inc.
Haskell Werlin, Solar Design Associates
DeWitt Jones, Boston Community Capital
Benjamin Cumbie, Transformations, Inc.
James M. Bing, PE; NEO Virtus Engineering, Inc.
Rickie Harvey, West Roxbury Saves Energy
Ninya Loeppky, Boston Climate Action Network
Tina Clarke, Winner, Massachusetts Zero Energy Challenge and NESEA 2010 Net Zero Energy Award