If good policy is characterized by simplicity and rational decisions backed by evidence, Massachusetts’ recent solar policies have taken another approach, and represent instead a complicated compromise resulting from political negotiation.
The compromise net metering rule which emerged in April, after the state’s solar market was held hostage by recalcitrant House leadership, arbitrarily assigned a 40% rate cut for power exported by larger systems. This change was to be implemented after former Governor Deval Patrick’s goal to install 1.6 GW was reached.
Only a month later the state determined that this cap would be met on or around June 1, 2016, and has been struggling to define how to implement the rule. Late last week these agencies appear to have settled on a plan, and are now stating that in order to qualify for full retail-rate net metering PV systems 25 kW and above must put in a complete and valid application by September 26 at 2:00 PM. Additionally these systems must receive an allocation from the state by January 8, 2017.
Systems installed after this point will only be credited for 60% of the retail value of electricity that they export. While this number is not based on any known record of evidence, solar installers who pv magazine staff have spoken with have stated that these numbers still work for many of their customers, and that projects are still moving forward.
Massachusetts’ Department of Public Utilities says that this will allow the timing to be aligned with the state’s current solar renewable energy credit (SREC) program, “SREC 2”, which is also set to phase out when the 1.6 GW goal is reached.
However, the compromise net metering legislation only raised the caps by for eligible systems by 3% in the service areas of various utilities, so hitting the new caps is another concern for installers.
PV systems under 25 kW with three-phase inverters and systems under 10 kW are not affected by either the reduction in compensation or net metering caps, leaving the residential and small commercial market segments intact.
If there is a silver lining to these changes, it is that Massachusetts’ solar market has been so successful that former Governor Patrick’s 2013 goal to install 1.6 GW goal of solar by 2020 has been reached in only three years instead of seven.