• Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signs new legislation, which will help solar deployment to grow in the state
  • Public net metering cap raised from 5% to 8%, for private it increases to 7% from 4%
  • Residential and small commercial projects will be exempt from net metering cap and credit reductions
  • Municipal and government entities will continue to enjoy credits at full retail rates

The US state of Massachusetts has passed a bill to continue expansion of solar in the state. On April 11, 2016, Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito signed the solar legislation into law. The bill was a bone of contention between the House and the Senate for quite some time.

Under the new law, the state has raised the public net metering cap from 5% of utilities’ peak load to 8% and the limit of private solar generators from 4% of utilities’ peak load to 7%. While it brings down tariff for the excess solar electricity fed into the grid by 40% for current power generators, the state says new users of net metering will be paid 60% of the retail rate. Those who own single phase systems of 10 kW and less and multiphase systems of 25 kW and less will be paid as usual and the net metering cap will not apply on them. These comprise residential and small commercial projects.

The maximum amount of generating capacity eligible for net metering by a municipality or other government entity shall be 10 MW. Municipal and government owned projects will continue to receive credits at retail rate. The systems connected under the lower cap will enjoy the benefits for the next 25 years.

Utilities have been allowed to charge a monthly minimum reliability contribution from solar system owners.

The state’s Department of Energy Resources (DOER) along with the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) plant to gradually transition the state’s solar industry to a more self-sustaining model.

The bill An Act Relative to Solar Energy was passed unanimously from both legislative chambers. Governor Baker said, “This legislation builds upon the continued success of the Commonwealth’s solar industry and ensures a viable, sustainable and affordable solar market at a lower cost to ratepayers.”

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton, added, “This legislation recognizes the maturity of Massachusetts’ vibrant solar industry, and will facilitate long-term growth beyond 1,600 megawatts at a reduced cost to ratepayers.”

However, the Massachusetts government has come under attack for its perceived support to the solar industry. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) on April 6, 2016 sent a letter to the state legislature. “The bill will not save ratepayers money and will not bring our program in line with other states. In fact, the bill will add $8 billion to the cost of energy over the next 10 years – 2.0 cents/kWh for residential customers and 1.6 cents/kWh for Commercial and Industrial customers,”the letter said. On government entities enjoying full retail rates, it stated that it was a sad case of taking care of your own while others pay.

The US solar industry is obviously happy with the state’s move. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) Vice President of State Affiars, Sean Gallagher said, “Governor Baker’s signature on a legislative compromise to lift net metering caps puts an exclamation point on what has been a remarkable week for the future of solar energy in Massachusetts. The state was fourth in the nation in 2015 in solar development, and now after a pause, will forge ahead with jobs and economic development.”