The Massachusetts legislature, on the last day of its latest session, passed a bill to advance clean energy in the state, but some environmental advocates say it did not go far enough.
The bill, H. 4756, includes a 1,000 MWh by 2025 energy storage target and the nation’s first Clean Peak Standard program that aims to increase the use of clean energy sources during times of peak demand.
- Legislators also told state regulators to revise a demand charge on solar power customers approved in January by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU). However, legislators failed to raise the state’s cap on how much solar power can receive net metering benefits.
The failure of the Massachusetts legislature to raise the state’s net metering cap as part of a wider energy bill means that some businesses and communities in the state that want solar power will not be able to have it, Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association, told Utility Dive via email.
"Across the state, solar projects and the jobs and millions of dollars of investment they bring remain stalled," Gallagher said in a statement. But he cheered the legislature decision to overturn "a wayward ruling" regarding solar demand charges that he said would have hurt consumers.
Other environmental advocates were more sparing in their praise. "This was our time to shine, but we whiffed it," Emily Norton, director of the Massachusetts chapter of the Sierra Club, told Utility Dive. The bill has "some good stuff," but it does not compare with a bill unanimously passed by the state’s Senate in June.
"Those of us who know Massachusetts and our history, know we are expected to be leaders," Norton said. "We did not do enough to meet our own greenhouse gas goals, let alone show leadership."
The Senate version of the bill would have raised the annual increase of the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) to 3%. Massachusetts’ RPS was originally set at 15% of electricity supplies from renewable resources by 2020, with a 1% increase thereafter and no expiration date. It will now increase by 2% annually and drop back to a 1% annual increase in 2029.
The Senate bill would have set a 100%-by-2047 RPS target, removed net metering caps, and increased the state's energy storage mandate to 2 GW by 2025.
The Senate bill also would have provided for the procurement of up to 5,000 MW of offshore wind, instead of the 1,600 MW of additional offshore wind capacity that will be procured by 2035 under the bill that now awaits the governor’s signature.
The legislature also took the unusual step of overturning a regulatory decision — the 'wayard ruling' that Gallagher referred to — a decision by the Massachusetts' DPU that would have allowed Eversource, the state's largest electric utility, to impose charges on net metered solar customers.
The proposed charge was "punitive and problematic," Janet Gail Besser, executive vice president of the Northeast Clean Energy Council, told Utility Dive. Otherwise, though, "the bill hit all of our top priorities, except one, the net metering cap," she said.
Besser also noted that the bill included measures to modernize the state’s grid and expanded Massachusetts’ energy efficiency program, updating it and expanding it to include technologies such as energy storage. Though there is more work to do, Besser said the advocacy group is "taking a breath" and is preparing to put together their agenda items for the next year.
Sierra Club's Norton, however, says the battle has just begun. "We plan to run people against some people in the state house," she said. "We have had it. This is about public health, jobs and our children. The gloves will be off."