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Net Metering Caps Put 1,000s of Solar Jobs at Risk

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Calling on the Legislature to act quickly to raise net metering caps, the Mass Solar Coalition stated recently that thousands of solar-related jobs are in jeopardy due to the caps for public and private projects. This finding was published in a final report sent recently to the Massachusetts State Legislature by the Net Metering and Solar Task Force, commissioned to provide recommendations on the future of solar policy in the Commonwealth.

Mass Solar Coalition member Larry Aller, Director of Business Development and Strategy at Next Step Living, said, “The actions of the Legislature have created over 12,000 jobs as part of a strong and vibrant solar industry that is helping achieve a low-cost and clean energy future for the Commonwealth.” Aller continued, “Without immediate action on the caps, many of these jobs will be lost over the next year and a half.”

Net Metering Caps in Massachusetts

Created last legislative session by Act S 2214, the Net Metering and Solar Task Force was asked to develop recommendations on incentives and programs to encourage the continued growth of solar in the state. Finding that net metering caps for public and private projects over 25kw in National Grid’s service territory have already been hit, the task force reported that this has halted the development of hundreds of solar projects in the 171 cities and towns in the area.

Removing net metering caps, the task force reported, “would be the most cost-effective way to develop solar in Massachusetts and would ensure a diverse solar market.” Instead, many municipal, commercial, low-income, and community solar projects that would provide utility customers with cost-saving benefits are being placed on hold, and the jobs these projects would create are being erased.

Fred Zalcman, Managing Director of Government Affairs for the Northeast States at SunEdison said, “With hundreds of jobs already at risk, the consequences of failing to provide near-term relief from the net metering caps are profound.” Zalcman, who is also the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) representative on the Net Metering and Solar Task Force, added, “That said, SEIA also strongly supports a transition to a long-term sustainable net metering and solar incentive program.” He pointed out that SEIA “looks forward to continuing to work with the legislature and other stakeholders to responsibly manage that transition.”

The Massachusetts Solar Coalition

The Mass Solar Coalition is an alliance between solar and clean energy industry organizations and businesses, and solar and environmental advocates. Working with the Massachusetts Legislature and other stakeholders, the Mass Solar Coalition promotes “long-term, sustainable, equitable, and cost-effective solar programs and policies.” The Coalition noted that it aims to ensure the Commonwealth’s continued solar success by supporting strong solar deployment to “deliver the many benefits of solar to all Massachusetts consumers.”

The Net Metering and Solar Task Force identified differing perspectives for achieving the Commonwealth’s sustainable and long-term growth of solar. Nevertheless, the Coalition stated that it is “committed to working with the Legislature and the administration to craft legislation and implement policies to achieve the Commonwealth’s solar goals.” As Coalition member Aller pointed out, though, “If nothing is done, the long-term policy will be implemented and the Commonwealth will ask for companies and workers to achieve those goals, [but] few will remain to answer the call.”

Findings of the Net Metering and Solar Task Force

The findings of the Net Metering and Solar Task Force’s recent report to the Massachusetts Legislature included:

  • The Commonwealth’s solar policies and incentives are delivering benefits to the Commonwealth that far exceed the total costs to consumers, as shown by the analysis conducted through the Task Force.
  • A wide variety of stakeholders in the Commonwealth want more solar development and recognize the value it provides to Massachusetts residents, businesses and municipalities.
  • The costs of solar and other renewable energy resources constitute a very small portion of customers’ electricity rates.
  • A scenario with no net metering caps would be the most cost-effective way to develop solar in Massachusetts and would ensure a diverse solar market.
  • Expanding the state’s successful net metering program is a key policy priority for the Massachusetts Solar Coalition. Net metering gives renewable energy customers full, fair credit on their utility bills for the excess clean power they deliver to the grid.
  • Existing Massachusetts law places a cap on net metering participation, after which utilities are no longer required to offer this important customer right to new non-residential solar energy customers.
  • Unfortunately, the net metering caps for public and private projects over 25kw in National Grid’s service territory have already been hit, halting the development of hundreds of solar projects in the 171 cities and towns in the area, including municipal, commercial, low-income and community solar projects that could provide ratepayers with significant cost-saving benefits.
  • If the Legislature does not act to address the net metering caps quickly, most of these projects will not move forward.

Satisfying our Appetite for Electricity With Solar Energy

Bill Stillinger, Net Metering Task Force representative for Solar Energy Business Association of New England (SEBANE), said, “Our positions throughout the Massachusetts Net Metering and Solar Task Force process have been guided by three principles.” Stillinger, also President of PV Squared, elaborated: “(To) ensure a stable and self-sustaining market for solar energy in the Commonwealth;  to promote equal access to the benefits of solar energy for individuals, organizations, and communities; and to support development of utility rate structures whereby all customers pay equitably for their use of the electric distribution system.”

Net Metering and Solar Task Force member Janet Gail Besser said, “The research and analysis conducted through this Task Force reinforces that solar energy is a worthy investment for the Commonwealth.” Also Vice President of Policy and Government Affairs of New England Clean Energy Center (NECEC), Besser continued, “Dollars spent on solar are an investment in the Commonwealth’s energy and economic infrastructure that stays in Massachusetts, that is earning a positive return in jobs, investment, and energy peak load and greenhouse gas reductions.”

Solar energy,” Besser emphasized eloquently, “is clearly a critical and valuable component of an energy platter that will satisfy our appetite for electricity.”

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