Sierra Club: Massachusetts Solar Bill Must Be Fixed

For Immediate Release

Contact: 
Emily Pomilio (480) 286-0401, emily.pomilio@sierraclub.org
Emily Norton, (508) 397-6839, emily.norton@sierraclub.org

Sierra Club: Massachusetts Solar Bill Must Be Fixed

Organization Urges Legislature to Revisit Solar in Omnibus Energy Bill

BOSTON - Massachusetts House members yesterday voted 152-1 in favor of legislation (H. 4173) that raises the solar net metering cap by 3 percent, but slashes the net metering reimbursement rate by 40 percent. The bill also expressly authorizes electric utilities to petition the Department of Public Utilities to add a minimum charge, with no ceiling, to all solar customers’ bills. Municipal solar projects are exempted from the cut in net metering reimbursement rates, but are still subject to the net metering cap.

The cap increase of 3 percent goes beyond the 2 percent increase that had been proposed in the House and Senate bills that passed last fall and  will allow projects to move forward that have been stalled due to the previous cap set in both National Grid and Eversource territories.

The Senate is expected to vote on the bill today, approximately thirteen months after the net metering cap was first reached in National Grid territory. The solar industry employs over fifteen thousand Massachusetts workers.

In response, Emily Norton, Massachusetts Chapter Director for the Sierra Club, issued the following statement:

"House and Senate conferees deserve credit for coming together to raise the cap on solar net metering. This will allow stalled projects to move forward, and that means a paycheck to thousands of Massachusetts families.

However, the work is not done. The new cap is expected to be reached within 6 to 9 months, which means risk to investors, and to the 15,000 Massachusetts residents who rely on solar jobs to put food on the table.  

In addition, because rooftop solar is reimbursed at the retail rate, slashing net metering reimbursement rates to community and low-income solar customers by 40 percent means residents who happen to have homes suitable for rooftop solar will be reimbursed much more generously than the 80 percent of Massachusetts residents in apartments and other residences not suitable for rooftop solar, who are often low-income, who want to participate in community solar. This inequity does not represent Massachusetts’ values and must be fixed as legislators turn their attention to the wider energy omnibus bill in the coming weeks. 

New York and California faced the same decision as Massachusetts; while they undertake a wider study on the value of solar they eliminated net metering caps and they maintained retain net metering rates for all - there was no disproportionate hit to lower income residents.

The bill as it stands sends a clear message that Massachusetts is not a safe place to invest in solar, even though it's a clean energy resource that has brought increased economic investment and jobs to the state. We should be embracing clean, renewable energy, not suppressing it, and that means setting up a clear and fair net metering program that investors and consumers can trust.”

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The Sierra Club is the oldest and largest grassroots environmental organization in the United States. It was founded on May 28, 1892 in San Francisco, California by the well-known conservationist and preservationist John Muir, who became its first president. The Sierra Club has hundreds of thousands of members in chapters located throughout the US, and is affiliated with Sierra Club Canada.

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