Boston, MA – Today, in a 39-0 vote, the Massachusetts State Senate took decisive action to improve access to solar energy as part of a comprehensive bill making refinement to the state’s renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.
Among the major improvements was a lifting of the cap on “net metering” – the program that allows local governments, businesses and homeowners to sell the electricity they generate from solar panels and other small onsite renewable energy sources back to the utility to offset their electric bills, and even generate some revenue.
The expansion of the state’s net-metering program was one part of a larger piece of energy legislation. The bill, S 2200 “An Act Relative to Competitively Priced Electricity in the Commonwealth” is designed to refine the state’s clean energy programs by providing long-term support for renewable energy in order to ensure that Massachusetts stays on track as a national leader on clean, efficient renewable energy. Accompanying this release is a summary of priority amendments to S 2200 with a note to indicate if the amendments were adopted.
Net metering is a critical part of the state’s strategy to increase affordable public access to solar and to meet the states renewable energy and environmental goals. Since 2008 when the Massachusetts legislature passed the GREEN Communities Act, the state has seen a 24-fold increase in installed solar electricity.
Demand for solar in the Commonwealth is growing. At a time when many companies and whole sectors were slowing down, the solar industry has maintained strong growth over the past 12 months and is projected to keep growing at a much faster pace than the overall U.S. Economy.
As of August 2011, the National Solar Jobs Census 2011 found that here in Massachusetts:
• There are an estimated 2,395 people employed in the solar industry, ranking Massachusetts 10th in the country for the most solar jobs;
• There are 410 establishments employing solar workers.
• Massachusetts ranks 10th in the nation for solar jobs.
The net-metering improvements were adopted in response to renewable energy businesses across the commonwealth warning legislators that if the cap isn't raised, the solar industry would be unable to expand, and growth in the clean energy sector would plateau, causing businesses to shrink their workforce, and look towards other states to continue to grow.
If we want to continue to be a hub of the solar industry, we must expand this program now. Leading solar businesses have been clear that failing to expand this critical solar program soon could cripple the solar industry in Massachusetts.
“This bill will ensure that Massachusetts remains a national leader in the solar industry, helping grow clean energy jobs while reducing carbon emissions here in our state. Increasing the net metering cap will allow communities across the Commonwealth to continue to build on the work they’ve already done to increase their use of clean energy. It’s a great step forward,” said Senator James Eldridge (D-Acton).
Michael Stone, Policy and Regulations Manager for My Generation Energy, a solar company based in South Dennis, MA said, "This legislation is significant in that leaders from across our Commonwealth have recognized the strong local demand for clean energy choice and the value, both economically and environmentally, of expanding clean energy access. This legislation will aide in reducing the hundreds of millions of dollars we send out of the state every week - for oil, natural gas and coal, reduce future transmission expenditures and create more resilient communities across the Commonwealth as a result. For our customers - homeowners, businesses and landowners - net metering means having control over their energy future with proven and reliable distributed generation such as solar. "
"Solar is an unlimited, pollution free resource with no fuel costs that will help Massachusetts meet our energy and environmental goals. We look forward to working with the legislature to making solar a centerpiece of Massachusetts' energy strategy,” said Ben Wright, advocate with Environment Massachusetts.
“This bill very important for the long-term growth of the solar industry in Massachusetts, and we couldn’t be more pleased that the Senate has moved another step forward. The net-metering provisions of the bill will complement other key policies by:Increasing the cap on the net-metering program to 3% of peak-load for public buildings and 3% of peak-load for private buildings. This will allow more residents, municipalities and businesses who install solar to sell their excess power back to their utilities at fair market rates. This effectively reduces pay-back periods for installations and makes solar more affordable for more people.
Environment Massachusetts is a statewide citizen based environmental advocacy organization working to protect clean air, clean water and open spaces.