- The Massachusetts Net Metering and Solar Task Force, created by the state legislature to work out a compromise on the state’s net energy metering (NEM) policy, released a report last week with a long list of recommendations for further action. But, according to The Boston Globe, the report does not include a specific answer on one of the state's most pressing energy issues — what the state should do when its 3% cap on net metered systems is met.
- In the Final Report to the Legislature, a solar advocate reports that National Grid, Massachusetts’ dominant electricity provider, has already reached the 3% cap on net metering and is putting interconnection applications on a waiting list, pending new policy. That could, the advocate reports, bring the state’s solar industry to a “grinding halt” and put 12,000 jobs at risk.
- A utility representative says in the report that the state can meet its goal of building 1,600 MW of solar under the current NEM cap structure because 250 MW of net metered solar remain available outside the National Grid service territory.
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (R) is against raising the net metering cap, the Globe reports, maintaining that the practice remains too expensive for non-solar customers. Baker says he supports the 1600 MW solar goal set by his predecessor, Deval Patrick (D), but that he doesn't want to raise the cap until more protections are put in place for ratepayers.
Utilities and renewables advocates hoped the NEM task force, created by the legislature to forge a compromise, would come to a specific conclusion on how to reform the net metering policy and better value distributed solar. But, according to the Globe, the panel ended up divided, and instead released a slate of options for legislators to select from.
The report offers three alternative solar policies:
- A “SREC (solar renewable energy) Policy” leaves current provisions in place but creates an SREC III Solar Carve-Out program.
- Another route, “Policy Path A” replaces the state’s SREC programs with declining block and performance-based incentives for under-25 kW projects and a competitive bidding system for over-25 kW projects. It would also limit NEM to generation in customer bills.
- “Policy Path B” replaces the SREC market with an upfront incentive payment for small projects based on their expected lifetime performance and a declining-block incentive for large projects. It would allow for NEM for both generation and transmission-distribution on customer bills.
All three alternatives get Massachusetts to the 1,600 MW of solar by 2019 goal, are less expensive than the current SREC programs, and leave choices about solar costs and benefits and the types of systems and participants, the study concludes. It is now up to state lawmakers to decide if they will fold any of the recommendations into a net metering reform bill.