By Derek Newberry, Advocacy Fellow
Last wek, our Chapter–along with 61 other Massachusetts organizations–endorsed the Acadia Center's Joint Statement on Solar Policy. The endorsers, which represent a variety of stakeholders in solar policy, include: business groups, labor, solar companies and organizations, environmental and clean-energy advocates, low-income advocates, religious groups, and community groups.
This broad coalition is pushing for more comprehensive and sustainable solar policy legislation. The statement is a follow-up to the 2015 Next Generation Solar Policy Framework–also endorsed by our Chapter. The endorsers of this Joint Statement strongly oppose House bill H. 3854, and appreciate the Senate's efforts to find a compromise to lift the net-metering caps. This document was sent to legislators to provide an overview of constructive, long-term solutions that will advance solar in Massachusetts, and to highlight the coalition's two most significant objections to the House Bill:
- Problem: No Arbitrary Cuts to Solar Net Metering Credits
- Cuts to net-metering value should not be made without official public analysis of the benefits and costs of solar. Significant reductions would risk losing the important benefits that solar provides to all ratepayers.
- Reductions to net-metering credit value would make it virtually impossible to build communtiy solar and low-income solar projects.
- Problem: Imposition of Minimum Bills
- Specifically, this coalition has a problem with two features of this problematic policy:
- The language in the bill is in favor of the utilities, resulting in the highest possible minimum bills. In MA rate cases, utilities argue that distribution costs are fixed, reported to be around $30 per resident. This could mean $360 in annual minimum bills for residential solar customers, and potentially much higher bills for larger solar customers such as municipalities or busineses.
- Limited grandfathering: Customers and generators with existing investments should be protected from new charges.
The Joint Statement provides a brief overview of the constructive, sustainable solutions posed in the Next Generation Framework, proposed to legislators in Fall 2015, with one additional component. The key elements of the Framework are:
- Suspend and then eliminate the caps on net metering, which undermine solar development without providing benefits to ratepayers.
- Initiate an official, publicly-scrutinized analysis of the benefits and costs of solar generation to ratepayers and society at large.
- For certain categories of projects, align the value of net metering credits with the long-run value of solar generation to ratepayers, including any appropriate charges for use of the grid.
- Reduce ratepayer costs by reforming the solar renewable energy credit (SREC) programs.
- Grandfather existing solar projects under the policies in place when the projects qualified.
- Set an ambitious long-term solar goal that contributes substantially to regional energy needs and environmental and public health requirements.
- ***NEW*** – Expand current SREC II low-income provisions and create a new low-income and urban solar program to ensure that the benefits of solar are accessible to every resident of Massachusetts and provide employment and training in the clean energy sector.
Our Chapter is eager to see how the legislature collaborates in the coming months to find a solution for this rapidly-growing sector of the green-building industry.