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Natural Awakenings Boston

Legislative Alert: Act on Solar in Massachusetts

Sep 30, 2015 11:40AM ● By Lucy Alexander

Bay State residents support solar—it’s the largest source of clean renewable energy in Massachusetts, not to mention the world, and has abundant benefits for the environment and economy. It reduces our dependence on fossil fuels and has benefits for public health, community resiliency and peak demand reductions. When an increase in something is desired, putting a “cap” on its growth is generally not practiced, but that’s exactly what the Massachusetts legislature has done with solar energy.

Currently, there are caps that limit the amount of solar energy that certain solar projects can net meter. Net metering is the form of compensation that people receive for excess solar energy that they send to the grid, and is essential for making solar projects financially viable.

This past spring, the net metering caps for commercial projects in National Grid’s utility territory, which covers 171 communities, reached their caps. This means that local businesses that want to put solar panels on their business won’t receive full compensation for the excess energy that is sent to the grid through net metering.

The reasoning behind limiting which projects can use solar net metering is not in line with the goals and priorities of Massachusetts’ citizens or government. People care about having access and encouraging clean energy options, especially solar, and both former Governor Deval Patrick and Governor Charlie Baker established a goal of 1600MW of solar by 2020. The Solar and Net Metering Task Force report, which was commissioned by the legislature and released in March 2015, found that the most expensive option for meeting that 1600MW by 2020 target was keeping the net metering caps.

The good news is that the state Senate and Baker have both taken steps to address lifting the caps on solar net metering. Last month, the Senate unanimously voted on a bill that would lift the net metering caps, and Baker also submitted a different bill to the legislature that would lift the caps. Unfortunately, the House of Representatives has yet to take any action on solar as of early September of this year. To show support for solar and uncapping solar net metering, call or set up a meeting with state representatives so that Massachusetts can continue growing this important source of clean, renewable energy.

Lucy Alexander is the policy manager for the Climate Action Business Association, an organization of local business leaders taking targeted action on climate change. For more information on supporting clean energy like solar, visit cabaus.org.

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