Net metering, renewable energy mandate bills move forward in Massachusetts

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On Thursday May 24th, the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy in Massachusetts advanced two solar power-focused bills: one to increase the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) and the other to increase net metering caps.

The first, bill H.1747, would mandate that utilities in the state procure 35% of their electricity from renewable energy sources by the year 2030, under the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).

The bill states that 1.2% more renewables must be added in 2019, 1.4% in 2020, 1.6% in 2021, then 1.8% in 2022. Thereafter, with no specific ending period noted, the RPS would increase by 2% a year – with 35% being hit in 2030.

The state’s current mandate, established in 2003, legislates an increase in annual sales of renewable energy by 1% each year – indefinitely. This law has the state hitting 15% by 2020 and 25% by 2030. Many other versions of this legislation were submitted during recent sessions, pushing for as much as a 100% renewable energy mandate.

 

Net metering caps to be lifted – again

The second bill, H.2712, is an increase in the state’s net metering caps for solar electric and other forms of behind-the-meter generation. The bill, an edit to Section 139 of Massachusetts’ General Laws on net metering, looks to increase current net metering caps by 2%.

Solar power growth in the central area of Massachusetts – covered by National Grid – has been most limited by the net metering caps. In the summer of 2015, the caps were hit and new solar construction stopped. The caps were extended by 3% a year later, but that increase was only enough to solar projects that were in the queue on a waiting list. Meaning, any new solar power sales went immediately onto a wait list again.

Its thought that more than $78 million in solar projects are currently on that waiting list.

The 2% increase is suggested as necessary to keep up with the pending SMART solar incentive program which looks to add 1.6 GW of solar power in the next few years. However, the structure of the SMART program might mean that net metering caps don’t matter as much.

A 2% cap increase would be hit very soon after the start of the SMART program as market chatter suggests a much larger build up of projects now, in the run-up to SMART, than last fall when pv magazine calculated $78 million in stalled projects.

 

Correction: This article was corrected on May 29 at 12:22 PM. The article originally gave incorrect figures on both the proposed RPS requirement and the increase in the net metering caps, due to an accidental citing of previous versions of both bills. The articles have been updated to reflect changes to the legislation which were approved but not posted on the Massachusetts General Court website at the time of writing. We regret the error.