Split in Mass. legislature leaves net metering cap, solar industry in limbo
- The House and the Senate of the Massachusetts Legislature failed to agree on a final bill that would lift the cap on net metering before they departed for winter recess, leaving the bill still in the hands of a committeee of House-Senate negotiators, MassLive reports.
- Earlier this week, the state House approved changes in House Bill 3854 that would increase the cap on net metering 2% for public and private projects, and reduce the credit value paid to large-scale solar owners from the retail rate of $0.16-$0.17/ kWh to the wholesale rate of $0.03- $0.04/kWh.
- The state Senate changed the submitted House bill to more closely align with with amendment 18 of Senate Bill 1973, providing for an net metering credit closer to the retail rate and a cap high enough to push the states's installed solar capacity to 1,600 MW — target set under former Gov. Deval Patrick (D) in 2013 and endorsed by current Gov. Charlie Baker (R). The bill was subsequently moved into a committee of House-Senate negotiators to be worked on before lawmakers return to formal sessions in January.
As Massachusetts edges ever closer to its net metering cap, state legislators hoped to hash out a compromise this week to raise the limit on rooftop solar generation before they left for winter recess. But after the original bill passed the House 105-2 on Wednesday, they were unable to come to an agreement with the Senate on how to combine the two chambers' proposals, leaving the issue stuck in a negotiation committee.
While it is possible that the bill could emerge in an informal session, MassLive reports that such moves are usually reserved for uncontroversial bills, meaning the solar bill could easily be stuck until January.
The 2% increase in the cap set by H.3854 would only get the state’s stalled solar capacity to around 1,500 MW before net metering provisions would need to be reconsidered, according to Northeast Clean Energy Council Policy vice president Janet Gail Besser.
The solar industry favored the amended Senate bill, saying the House bill, which would reduce the amont of money paid to solar energy producers for large-scale projects — not individual rooftop solar users — would hurt the industry. The wholesale rate is too low, they argued, and existing projects should be grandfathered in for 25 years instead of the proposed 20 years. The National Grid, one of the two major utilities in the state, endorsed the House bill.