BOSTON – Legislation that would have immediately raised the net-metering cap while providing for a long-term roadmap for future solar development beginning once Massachusetts reaches its 2020 solar energy goal has been sent to a Conference Committee.
After months of negotiations, Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg) joined her colleagues in the House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon to pass legislation that would provide a stopgap measure to lift the net-metering cap, while the House continues to work on omnibus energy legislation. The bill was then sent to the Senate, where an additional amendment was offered. At the end of session on Wednesday evening, the Speaker of the House and Senate President decided to appoint a Conference Committee to hash out the differences that the Senate amendment introduced to the House’s version of the bill.
“The bill we passed in the house this week was a way for the Legislature to address immediate issues, such as raising the net metering cap, and getting projects off the waitlist, while we continue to work on a more omnibus energy bill,” said Representative Benson.
Both the House and Senate agreed to a 2 percent raise on net-metering for private and public facilities. This immediate cap increase would allow the majority of net-metering projects currently in the development pipeline to progress. The change represents a 44 percent increase of the overall cap.
Differences between the two bills include how to reimburse solar producing customers for the energy they generate. The House’s version included a minimum bill for customers’ in order to offset the utilities’ costs for maintaining infrastructure. The minimum bill requirement ensures that all ratepayers using the distribution system help pay for the maintenance, reliability, and safety of the electric grid. Additionally, the House’s bill requires the Department of Energy and Resources (DOER) to create a new, less-costly incentive program that reflects a mature solar industry.
Representative Benson argued in the House to ensure that all solar projects that are developed prior to the Commonwealth reaching the 1600MWs mark will be grandfathered in under existing incentive programs for 25 years. The final House bill included 20 years, while the Senate amendment included a grandfathering clause for solar projects to be covered under currently defined law from 30 years after the date of interconnection.
The House will focus on advancing its work on a more comprehensive energy bill in 2016, which will address other renewable energy sources, such as hydropower.
“Since I was elected to serve the 37th Middlesex District, I have been committed to working on policies that invest in renewable energy, and provide resources and incentives for residents to be a part of the Commonwealth’s clean energy goals” said Representative Benson. “The House is currently working on a larger energy bill, and I want to make sure we are prepared for these continued discussions, as well as ready to propose solutions to guarantee sustainability of the solar industry. In order to ensure that this is an open conversation, I will be hosting an event in the district in the coming months to receive feedback from community members. I am hopeful that this forum will allow us to have a transparent discussion about the solar bill passed in the House this week, and the Commonwealth’s solar energy moving forward.”
Representative Benson will be announcing a solar event to continue the conversation in the district in the upcoming weeks.