By Anthony Lucivero, Advocacy Fellow

This morning marked the inaugural Policy Podium event, with the focus being on net metering in Massachusetts.  We had 90 minutes of dynamic and informative discussions, led by our four panelists: 

  • David Colton (Town Administrator of Easton)
  • Charles Harak (National Consumer Law Center)
  • Tim Roughan (National Grid)
  • Matt Shortsleeve (Solect Energy)

Special thanks go out to USGBC MA Advocacy Committee member David Bliss for bringing these four panelists together. 

The intention of this Policy Podium was to answer one question: What can the USGBC MA Chapter do to support net metering and solar energy development in Massachusetts?  When one aspect of net metering is being discussed, it opens up two cans of worms, so kudos go to our Executive Director, Grey Lee, for keeping the conversations on-track and ensuring audience participation. While the discussions between panelists and audience members were empassioned, everyone attending was there to listen and learn.  This was an important step in each side coming to the table to hear the other out. 

The main takeaway for the Chapter was to support raising or eliminating the net metering caps, or solar development will be dead in the water. However, short-term cap increases are not the solution.  We must build legislation that grows with solar development, or we will run into this problem every few years. 

However, there were many other takeaways from these discussions:

Solar load management through grid modernization will be key to the future of solar. When the grid is able to give utilities the full amount of details, this will result in making solar more cost-effective. 

  • Grid modernization, including virtual net metering and community solar, must be undertaken.  Tim Roughan stressed that grid modernization must come before, not after, solar development.
  • Transparency in the financial models of solar developers is needed; if installation costs are going down, is the money going to the right place? 
  • A comprehensive study for the value of solar energy must be undertaken, and not just for solar users. How can solar energy benefit the NON-solar user (even through indirect means, such as cleaner air)?
  • The next SREC incentive program must place a fair price on solar, and should include different classes of solar customers to determine varying levels of value. 
  • We must ask the legislature why there is no transparency in the politics of solar, and question them on their priorities for energy generation, distribution, and net metering pricing. 
  • Highlight the challenges facing building-level solar (structural restrictions, shading, mixed-use buildings), and give the solutions. 
  • Compromises must be made by utilities AND solar developers & users; utilties should pay-out more for solar generation, while solar users & developers should pay their fair share in supporting grid modernization.

This event was a resounding success, and we are already looking forward to our next Policy Podium with Senator Benjamin Downing, one of the core legislators in creating a future for renewable energy in Massachusetts. 

Special thanks to Celis Brisbin who served as the clerk of the works for this event, which was actually on his birthday! Yay Celis!

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