Massachusetts lawmakers passed An Act to Advance Clean Energy yesterday that will pretty much do what it says, with one really important victory for the solar industry, and one potential setback. The victory was a call for Eversource to revise the demand charge it tried to impose (this was the main focus of the legislation heading in).
“Thank you to lawmakers in the House and Senate for acting to reject anti-consumer demand charges and ensuring homeowners and residents can continue to invest in solar energy,” stated Evan Dube, a Senior Policy Director with Sunrun and spokesperson for The Alliance for Solar Choice. “Massachusetts has become the latest state to stop mandatory punitive demand charges, which have been rejected virtually every time proposed across the country. State policy-makers showed tremendous leadership to maintain fair, commonsense billing methods that are good for consumers and support the growth of solar in the state.”
Notably absent from the revise legislation was anything about raising the state’s net metering cap. This concerns a bunch of solar advocates in the state because it has been nearly two years since the net metering cap for private and community shared projects in National Grid’s service territory was hit, and now caps have been hit in two other utility service areas slamming the brakes on hun-dreds of solar projects in 230 cities and towns.
Adding to this issue is the uncertainty around the start and details of the state’s new incentive program – the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) Program, which will now be the only driver of market growth for the solar industry, leaving some municipal and business cus-tomers that want to put solar on their own roof, unable to do it in much of the Commonwealth.
“While it helpfully clarifies the structure for new charges for solar customers, there remains uncertainty in the Commonwealth’s solar market due to caps on net metering that have been hit,” said NECEC Execu-tive Vice President Janet Gail Besser. “Overall this legislation is a positive step forward and will spark more growth in the clean energy economy Massachusetts has built over the last decade.”
A quick summation of all the clean energy policies in the act:
- Renewable Portfolio Standard – Raises the RPS by increasing the annual RPS growth rate to 2% until 2029 and then to 1% thereafter, increasing the requirements from 25% to 35% in 2030 and from 35% to 45% in 2040.
- Solar – Addresses the unfair and inefficient mandatory residential demand charge approved in Ever-source’s recent rate case.
- Energy Storage – Establishes a stronger 1,000 MWh deployment target for utility, third-party and customer owned systems in 2025.
- Modernize the Grid – Requires utilities to file annual resiliency reports with the DPU and hold competitive solicitations for non-wires alternatives from third party developers as a solution for reducing green-house gas emissions, replacing aging infrastructure, benefitting stressed, congested or severe weather-prone areas of the electric grid.
- Buildings – Promotes energy efficiency by enabling more technologies to qualify within the Mass Save efficiency programs.
- Offshore Wind — Allows DOER, after studying the needs, benefits and costs, to conduct additional offshore wind procurements of up to 1,600 more megawatts by 2035.
— Solar Builder magazine