Advocates Urge Massachusetts Lawmakers to Expand Successful Rooftop Solar Program

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With solar energy doubling in Massachusetts last year, organizations call for passage of S.2019 / H.3901 to keep Massachusetts solar growing

Environment Massachusetts

Boston—With solar energy on the rise in Massachusetts, Environment Massachusetts, Vote Solar, Boston Community Capital, and the MassEnergy Consumers Alliance joined a broad coalition of stakeholders at a public hearing today to support the continued growth of solar in Massachusetts and encourage the expansion of the state’s successful net metering program.

“Massachusetts’ tremendous success is the result of a strong policies and a dynamic partnership between local and state government, committed to working with citizens and businesses to realize the environmental and economic benefits of solar,” said Ben Hellerstein, field associate with Environment Massachusetts, in testimony before the Massachusetts Legislature’s Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee. “If we preserve and improve our already successful solar programs, we can maintain our status as a national solar leader.”

Net metering gives renewable energy customers full, fair credit on their utility bills for the excess clean power they deliver to the grid. Massachusetts law places a cap on net metering participation, after which utilities are no longer required to offer this important right to new non-residential solar energy customers. Schools and local governments are already hitting their cap, with private businesses not far behind. A broad coalition of businesses, local governments, environmental advocates and solar supporters is urging the legislature to pass S.2019 / H.3901, a bill that would raise the cap on net metering participation, and to reject legislation that would undercut the program.

“Net metering means our schools are going solar to save on their power bills and direct precious limited resources to the classroom. It means our cities and counties are leading their communities on clean energy while keeping budgets in check. It means that Massachusetts is reducing the need for expensive and polluting power plants and grid infrastructure,” said Nathan Phelps, Program Manager of DG Regulatory Policy at Vote Solar. “We encourage legislators to raise the net metering cap so we can continue to see these solar benefits across the state.”

In 2013, Massachusetts added 237 megawatts (MW) of new solar, more than doubling the total amount of solar capacity installed and making the state one of the nation’s top growth markets. At the hearing, the groups noted the best thing Massachusetts can do for continued solar growth is to provide stability by maintaining and expanding existing programs, including net metering and Commonwealth’s solar standard—the so-called solar renewable energy credit (SREC).

“Solar saves all ratepayers money and can be a solution to energy affordability concerns in low income communities. Net metering is what makes this possible,” said DeWitt Jones of BCC Solar Energy Advantage, which has developed over 4 MW of solar serving affordable housing, non-profits, and municipal facilities across the state.

The groups stressed that onsite solar has a value that goes well beyond the cost of the electricity it provides, and legislators should take into account the following factors as they consider future solar policies:

  • The value of solar and distributed generation (in reduced peak demand, avoided transmission and distribution costs and enhanced resiliency of the grid, particularly on high demand days);
  • The environmental and local economic benefits of solar; and
  • The importance of expanding and maintaining access across sectors and classes of customers, including residential and small business customers, multi-family dwellings, local governments and other institutions.

“On days of high energy demand, our overdependence on natural gas causes electricity prices to go through the roof,” said Larry Chretien, Executive Director of the Energy Consumers Alliance of New England. “Fortunately, solar on our roofs can help meet that demand by tapping a resource with no fuel costs—and it can do that without adding to our climate problem.”

Environment Massachusetts released a report last year concluding that the amount of sunlight a state has is not the biggest factor in making a state a true solar leader; rather, it is the degree to which state and local governments have adopted effective programs to support solar growth. A strong commitment from Massachusetts state and local leaders has propelled the Bay State to the list of top solar states in the nation.

“The sun could provide all of our energy without the air, water and climate-altering pollution associated with fossil fuels,” said Hellerstein. “To truly capture the environmental and economic benefits of solar energy, we must rally around a bigger vision on solar while defending and improving the programs that work today.”

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