By Grey Lee

Every few months, we find an opportunity to push for some legislation which we believe will enhance the prospects of our stakeholders in the green building industry. Yesterday we were called upon to support PACE finance reform in Massachusetts. You can read more about PACE (property-assessed clean energy) at our PACE Advocacy page here.

On March 11th, I went to the Statehouse to make some noise in support of S.177.  Introduced by Sen. Brian A. Joyce (Milton), the bill will help make available private funds for renewables, efficiency and resiliency projects in the State.


I met up with Emily Kowtoniuk from Sen. Joyce's office, who has been steering the outreach from his office to the grassroots such as USGBC MA Chapter. We walked all over the place, eventually descending to B-1, Basement Hearing Room One.

It was also Clean Energy Day at the Statehouse and the place was packed with renewable and clean energy fans. The Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy would hear about PACE, Net Metering, and broadband.

With me was David Straus, Director of Development and Programs at A Better City – one of our advocacy partners based in Boston. David is also on the USGBC MA Chapter Board of Directors and all-around sustainability all-star. I always learn a lot from David as his specialty is in transportation planning. That is one thing I experience but have never actually studied. We also have an overlapping interest in Latvia and the traditional village model of sustainability and resiliency, but that is another story.

We spent a little while waiting for our turn to address the Joint Committee. Senator Joyce was actually able to claim the first speaking slot to introduce S.177 to the committee and urge its movement through the legislative grist mill and towards a vote. As he said, there really isn't any opposition to this bill – it will enable private lenders to put money into a secure investment, which will result in improved energy performance, environmental responsibility and resilience for our building stock in Massachusetts.

Thank you Senator Joyce for your leadership on PACE finance reform! We were proud to work with you and other allies to exhort the Joint Committee, and especially their Chairs – Sen. Downing and Rep. Keenan – to work hard for passage of these reforms. You can read our letter of endorsement here – and feel free to copy and past for your own editing, and send to the legislators above.

The hearing had multiple topics, but was dominated by supporters of net metering reform – to increase the amounts of energy eligible to be sold by a renewable electricity generating project (mostly solar PV) to the grid. Installers and entities wanting to install PV are facing financial model trouble as the benefit that can be calculated into the project pro-forma from net-metering income is disappearing. Utilities in MA are reaching the maximum 3% of net-metering-sourced generation, after which they don't have to pay so much for what you pump into the grid.

State Sen. Petrucelli and Rep. Smizik want to do away with that 3% cap and let the solar installers continue their boomtimes. National Grid and other utilities are not at all happy about this, describing an injustice where ratepayers who don't have renewables using net metering becoming responsible for a larger and larger share of the grid maintenance costs that net-metered entities skip because they are selling into the grid; thus, not being assessed a portion of a purchase from the grid which would pay for those grid costs. Pardon me for the convoluted explanation of this situation, but I did learn a lot about it in the hearing. You can read more about the situation in this article at the Boston Business Journal.

We encountered a few Chapter Members at the hearing including Darien Crimmin (above right), VP of Energy & Sustainability at Winn Development, who took the stand for the continued growth of net metering. It was great to see a vibrant room full of renewable energy and resiliency advocates! Nice work green building pros!

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