Legislature Passes Solar Energy Bill, Lifts Net Metering Cap

BOSTON — April 11, 2016 –Last week, State Representative Jennifer Benson (D-Lunenburg) voted with a bipartisan majority of the Massachusetts Legislature to enact solar legislation to lift the net metering cap in the Commonwealth and support the growth of the solar industry.

The legislation was the result of months-long conference committee negotiations between House and Senate leaders who were tasked with hashing out the differences between the chambers’ solar bills. The bill raises the net metering cap by 3 percent, and directs the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to establish an updated incentive program for solar producers. The legislation creates a long-term roadmap for the continued growth of solar power in the Commonwealth.

“The legislation that resulted from the conference committee process is not perfect, but it makes progress on the key issues,” said Representative Benson. “The bill raises the net metering cap and directs DOER to come up with a new incentive program. That is good news, and that is why I voted for it. I will be pushing for the legislature to go even further to support solar.”

“Energy policy is one of the most crucial issues facing the Commonwealth today,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo (D-Winthrop) said. “This bill and the more comprehensive efforts we will undertake later in the session will help foster a sustainable, renewable energy industry while ensuring ratepayers are treated fairly. I’m proud of the progress we’re making to strike a balanced approach that will serve our state’s environmental and economic needs both now and far into the future.”

This legislation ensures that Massachusetts will reach its goal of 1600 megawatts of solar installed in the Commonwealth. Upon reaching that goal, reforms to the net metering program will go into effect. As the solar industry matures and the cost of projects continues to decrease, the reformed program will guarantee that incentives also decrease to reduce the cost for ratepayers. Future projects will receive credits equal to 60% of the retail rate for electricity instead of the full retail amount.

Under this law, residential and municipally-owned systems are exempt from changes to the net metering program, and will continue to receive credits equal to the full retail rate. Additionally, projects installed prior to reaching 1600 megawatts will continue to receive current net metering rates for 25 years from the date of installation.

Finally, the bill directs the Department of Energy Resources to develop a new, long term solar incentive program to support the expanded use of solar beyond the Commonwealth’s 1600 megawatt goal. This program will prioritize low income, community-shared and municipal projects, and provides a foundation for the stable and continued growth of the solar industry.

Governor Baker signed the bill into law on Monday morning.