At the end of September, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker testified in front of a Statehouse in support of two pieces of proposed energy legislation, S 1965, authorizing long-term hydro contracts, and H 3724, legislation which would slightly increase net metering caps. Baker’s support of both bills further emphasizes his known preference for an all-encompassing piece of energy legislation, tackling the hydro and solar issues at the same time. However, because of the consistent and strong pressure from the solar industry, Baker also acknowledged the immediate need to raise the net metering caps to alleviate the pressure that currently exists.
The net metering caps have created a concerning situation in Massachusetts, the nation’s #4 solar market, with 9,400 solar workers. When a given territory hits its cap, development stalls, forcing developers to look elsewhere for opportunity – or to get creative. Last year, the Commonwealth installed 308MW of solar electric capacity.
The State Senate passed a bill in July from State Senator Downing, calling for a raise in net metering caps across all territories, setting the cap at the state’s goal of 1600MW of solar. Baker later submitted his bill which increases the caps by about 2% keeping with the model of utility territory caps, and leaving the state’s public cap at 6% and private at 7%. Unlike Baker’s legislation, Downing’s bill does not separate the cap by utility territory, so National Grid (NGrid) would be able to take some of the undersubscribed capacity currently allocated to Nstar.
It is yet to be seen which bill, if either, will be successful, but Governor Baker’s acknowledgment of the pressure felt from the solar industry in Massachusetts shows promise, especially as he continues to emphasize his desire for Massachusetts to be a national leader in clean energy. In an effort to continue this positive momentum, Senator Downing also stated that he is open to compromise, lending some probability to the chance of net metering legislation being enacted and the caps being lifted.
NGrid territory currently has a 46MW waiting list for private systems, and 33MW for public. There is about 105MW of private capacity and 118MW of public capacity remaining under NStar and the other territories, but as the countdown to the ITC expiration continues, development is expected to further accelerate.
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