The State of Massachusetts is one of the nation’s leaders in solar power. The nation’s first grid connected solar power system was built here, and the SREC and SREC II programs deployed greater than 800 MW of solar power each, at rates faster than the state expected. This success has meant that employment in the industry peaked at over 15,000 at the end of 2016, and many billions of dollars in employment labor and electricity revenue has flowed from this.
However, the industry has also taken a few broadside punches. At the end of both the SREC and SREC II programs there has been a long period of legislative wagon circling to design follow up programs. This led to a market contraction at the end of 2013 into 2014 as SREC ended, and is part of the current installation lull with SREC II pending a move to the SMART program.
Not to mention that the National Grid region of the state has lost hundreds of millions worth of installation due to hitting the net metering cap multiple times for large scale installations. Including the most recent time when the new cap capacity was immediately consumed – literally the day of release – by reserved applications.
These are some of the reasons that the industry has lost over 3,000 jobs since its peak. And that’s why Vote Solar, MassSolar, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA) and the Solar Energy Business Association of New England (SEBANE), workers and leaders from the solar industry held over 60 meetings with legislators and staff to urge them to support the Commonwealth’s solar workforce through action on the net metering caps, SMART program tariff, the state’s renewable energy mandate and undoing the first demand charge that state regulators have ever approved on residential customers in Eversource’s territory.
Sean Garren, Northeast Senior Director at Vote Solar, was very specific in the industry’s needs:
We need the Legislature to help get the Commonwealth back on track by standing up and reversing Eversource’s solar tax and raising the caps that limit the number of residents and businesses who can enjoy the benefits of solar through net metering.
Political engagement by the solar power industry has evolved and grown over the years. Recently headlines have shown SEIA reaching across the political aisle to lobby and fund Republicans more than Democrats. This is notable in light of eight Republican Senators writing the government requesting a solar panel tariff exemption for utility scale projects.
These politicians are just barely starting to move toward where their constituents views lay – as it is clearly shown that solar power is strongly supported across all of the political spectrum, even if it is not as highly prioritized as other issues.