The United States Solar Energy Industries Association published a new analysis this week which proves that more than $78 million worth of solar projects are currently on hold in Massachusetts due to a failure to extend the state’s Net Metering Cap.
The new analysis published on Monday was conducted by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) in advance of hearings held on Wednesday at the State Capitol in which the SEIA and Massachusetts partner organizations testified in support of two separate bills which would raise the net metering caps.
According to the SEIA there are currently 124 separate projects on hold, with a cumulative capacity of 51.2 MW (megawatts) which could power nearly 5,400 homes. Broken down further, in Massachusetts the largest stranded solar investments are led by Berkshire County with $28.1 million in stranded investments, followed by Worcester County with $12.8 million, and Hampshire County with $9.1 million.
Further, three of Massachusett’s state utilities have already reached their net metering caps within their service territories — including National Grid, WMECO, and Unitil.
“Massachusetts has been one of our nation’s clean energy leaders, but one of its fastest-growing industries is being stifled by delayed action on net metering,” said Sean Gallagher, SEIA’s vice president of state affairs. “With projects now on hold in more than half the state, the Legislature should raise the net metering caps this year. Doing so will ensure significant investment in the Commonwealth, create new jobs, protect thousands more, and help meet the Governor’s clean energy goals.”
The current policy setup in Massachusetts is such that only a percentage of a utility’s total distribution can use net metering which, for the uninitiated, is a policy which allows businesses and other end-users to acquire credit for the electricity that they generate with their own generation technologies (such as solar) and provide back to the grid — which, in practice, means that an end-user is only billed for their “net” energy usage.
However, the Massachusetts caps apply to commercial, industrial, public, and community solar projects, meaning that there are entire swaths of small and large businesses and organizations looking to adopt solar that are unable to do so when the net metering caps are met — or, at the least, they can adopt solar but not benefit from being able to sell excess back to the grid.
On Tuesday, leading industry associations and advocates representing Massachusetts’ 495 solar employers, 15,000 solar employees, and any number of potential and existing solar customers and solar supporters, attended hearings on the state’s net metering caps. Together, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Vote Solar, Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA), Northeast Clean Energy Council (NECEC), Solar Energy Business Association of New England (SEBANE), and MassSolar, presented their findings at the hearing and highlighted the specific bills and the role they can play in the state’s solar industry:
- Raise net metering caps by at least 5% to align with Governor Baker’s new 1,600 megawatt Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program (such as in S.1824/H.2712)
- Lower solar costs and improve customer experience by improving billing procedures (such as in S.1835)
- Improve the structure of net metering caps to ensure low income and community solar projects can move forward
“Today, more than 120 projects and tens of millions of investment dollars are being left on the table because of the state’s inability to date to lift the NEM cap,” said Sean Gallagher. “Massachusetts has long been a solar leader. Legislative action to raise the caps will provide the industry the long-term certainty needed to keep growing. We urge the Legislature to raise the caps this year.”
“Massachusetts’ 15,000 solar workers are helping lead the nation to a future with a stronger economy, healthier communities and a safer climate,” added Sean Garren, Northeast Senior Director at Vote Solar. “As Washington abdicates its responsibility to lead on energy and the environment, the Commonwealth must redouble our efforts. The Committee today faces a familiar choice — whether to keep these 15,000 solar workers on the job delivering that brighter tomorrow. It is time to remove the caps on solar net metering and keep us on track.”