House and Senate leaders in Massachusetts came to an agreement yesterday on raising the state’s net metering cap by 3%. A six-member House and Senate conference committee agreed on the bill’s final language late Tuesday, April 5.
As reported by PV-Tech and New England Cable News, this bill — H.4173 — comes after five months of negotiation, including a “solar impasse” which delayed more than 500 solar projects in Massachusetts worth $617 million.
The agreement is designed to make it easier to get credit for generating extra power from solar panels.
Utilities Voice Concerns
Utilities have voiced concern about lifting the existing caps, arguing customers without solar panels are helping foot the bill for those who use net metering. They add net metering payouts do not help cover the cost of operating and maintaining the electricity distribution infrastructure. Solar advocates argue that the wide-ranging benefits of rooftop solar power outweigh the extra costs for other ratepayers.
The compromise bill would allow utilities to impose a charge on solar users to help maintain the grid.
The final wording of the bill allows smaller-scale projects to benefit from higher-retail reimbursements rates – last year, the rate was around $0.17/kWh, according to reports. Commercial or community projects will receive a less favorable reimbursement rate.
“This legislation, H.4173, will allow dozens of community solar projects to move forward across the Commonwealth in the coming months,” said Jeff Cramer, executive director of the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA). “That means we can put our employees back to work building local clean-energy projects, generate tax revenue for towns, and most importantly, give our customers the bill savings they’ve been waiting for.”
The bill will be returned to both chambers for a final vote prior to final ratification.
In April, a coalition of Massachusetts mayors and town managers sent a letter to lawmakers, warning that a change to a lower wholesale net metering rate could jeopardize planned municipal solar projects across the state.
The effort to raise the solar net metering cap is viewed as a large step in boosting the importance of renewable energy in Massachusetts.
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