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Massachusetts Solar Industry Testifies in Support of Raising Net Metering Caps

Tom Schueneman's picture

Environmental writer, journalist and web publisher. Founder of

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  • Oct 5, 2017

Massachusetts and net metering

A recent analysis of solar energy net metering program data in Massachusetts reveals that more than $78 million of emissions-free solar energy projects are on hold as a result of the state’s net metering cap being reached. The US Solar Energy Industries Association and partners organizations in Massachusetts are at the State Capitol in Boston today, Oct. 3, to testify in support of two bills that would raise net metering caps.

Analyzing in-state data, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) determined that 124 projects with a total power capacity of 51.2 megawatts (MW) are on the waiting list for net metering in Massachusetts. That’s enough to power nearly 5,400 average homes, according to SEIA.

Net metering, though criticized and opposed by many utilities, has been one of the pivotal drivers spurring solar energy installations and self-generation across Massachusetts. Through net metering, the state has emerged as a leader in the evolution of the 21st century model for electricity generation and distribution.

Solar and net metering in Massachusetts

Massachusetts ranks sixth among US states for total installed solar power generation capacity with an installed base of 1,743MW. The state aims to double that to meet the renewable energy goals set out per Governor Baker and his administration.

Massachusetts: among the top 10 solar states

Net metering, in general, requires that electric utilities purchase electricity produced by generation from customers’ sites. This encompasses a wide variety of clean and renewable generation capacity installed behind the utility meter, and there is a specific “carve out” for solar.

Applicable to commercial, industrial, public and community solar energy projects, Massachusetts’ net metering program requires in-state investor-owned utilities to connect to and compensate these types of customers with solar energy systems up and running for electricity they provide to the grid, but only up to a certain percentage of utilities’ total generation resource capacity. They are billed only for the net amount of electrical energy they consume.

Massachusetts solar installation growth

According to the US Dept. of Energy DSIRE (Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency) run by North Carolina State University’s NC Clean Energy Technology Center, as of Sept. 2016 Massachusetts’ net metering program caps are as follows:

  • 10MW for net metering by a municipality or other governmental entity;
  • 2MW for all other “Class III” systems;
  • 1MW for all other “Class II” systems; 60 kW for all other “Class I” systems
  • Aggregate Capacity Limit: 7 percent of utility’s peak load for private entities; 8 percent of utility’s peak load for municipalities or governmental entities. Systems 10 kW and under on a single-phase circuit and systems 25 kW and under on a three-phase circuit are exempt from the private aggregate capacity limit.

Three of Massachusetts’ utilities – National Grid, WMECO and Unitil have reached their net metering caps. Without it, school districts, municipal buildings and small, medium and large businesses seeking to install solar energy systems have had to shelve their plans as a result, SEIA points out.

Raising the caps in conjunction with SMART, Massachusetts’ solar incentive program, would open the door for solar energy companies to install more than 1,000MW of solar power capacity by 2022, according to SEIA.

“Massachusetts has been one of our nation’s clean energy leaders, but one of its fastest-growing industries is being stifled by delayed action on net metering,” SEIA’s Vice President of State Affairs Sean Gallagher stated.

“With projects now on hold in more than half the state, the Legislature should raise the net metering caps this year. Doing so will ensure significant investment in the Commonwealth, create new jobs, protect thousands more, and help meet the Governor’s clean energy goals.”

Among Massachusetts’ counties, SEIA values planned but not yet installed solar energy systems in Berkshire at $28.3 million, the highest in the state. Worcester County comes in second, with $12.8 million worth of solar energy systems hinging on raising of the state’s net metering caps, and Hampshire ranks third, at $9.1 million.

*Image credits: Feature: Wikimedia Commons; 2), 3) SEIA

The post Massachusetts Solar Industry Testifies in Support of Raising Net Metering Caps appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

Original Post

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Oct 5, 2017

The latest data from the US solar trade organization, the SEIA, shows that once again, utility scale solar is much cheaper than residential: this time by about a factor of 2.8!

So adding solar PV systems to rooftops is basically the most expensive way to generate solar power, by far. Net-metering programs allow people to save money, while making the whole electricity system cost more (i.e. shifting the cost to others).

The residential solar industry would like us to think that without them, we can’t have the benefits of solar power. It turns out that utility scale solar has always been much larger in terms of annual MWatts installed than residential. And the frequently heard claim that residential PV somehow makes the grid cheaper is false, as grid demand peaks around sunset, so a robust grid is needed in any case.

Net-metering is an economically inefficient use of our limited clean-energy dollars. We don’t need it to generate clean energy. We certainly cannot get rid of fossil fuels if we don’t have the political discipline to say “no” to special interest groups whose interests conflict with that of the public. If people want home PV systems, fine, pay them wholesale for exports to the grid, and let them pay their fair share of grid costs (based on peak, not average usage).

Tom Schueneman's picture
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