Massachusetts energy bills stall as deadline approaches (updated)

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Update 8/27, 12:45 PM EST: Sources close to the negotiations say that the conference committee is “piecing together a bill” and to expect a vote before the end of the session. It is not clear exactly what elements will be in the final bill, but our sources indicate a 2% per year RPS increase, restrictions on Eversource’s demand charge and a Clean Peak Standard are likely components. 

 

The party may have come too early.

Clean energy advocates in New England celebrated widely six weeks ago when an wide-ranging energy bill passed the Massachusetts Senate. The ambitious bill would have removed the state’s restrictive caps on net metering, boosted the state’s energy storage procurement to 2 GW, limited demand charges and set the state on a path to 100% renewable energy.

However, despite the Massachusetts House passing its own set of energy reform bills including a renewable portfolio standard increase and a storage bill, these bills have not been reconciled with the Senate version, and are currently sitting in a conference committee.

“It is really unclear where they stand,” Vote Solar Northeast Director Sean Garren told pv magazine.

The clock is running out. There are only three days left in the legislative session for these bills to be reconciled and come to a vote, or legislators will have to start from scratch during the next session. This is particularly of concern for the state’s net metering caps. These have already been hit in the service areas of National Grid and Unitil for both public and private projects, and in WMECO (Western Eversource) for private projects.

There has been significant pressure to move the bill, and in addition to a wide range of other actions, and on Wednesday a group of 20 mayors, city councilors, energy directors and other municipal leaders sent a letter to House and Senate leadership urging them to act on the energy bills, particularly the lifting the net metering caps and stopping demand charges on residential customers.

Solar is a critical part of our local economy and our commitment to making our environment cleaner, but we need continued leadership from our state leaders to keep solar on track,” stated Framingham City Council Member Adam Steiner. “We hope they will heed our letter and act quickly on these important solar policies.”

The problem may not be on the Senate side. Anyone who has experience with the Massachusetts House knows that this body has been tightly controlled by Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) for nearly a decade, and under his leadership clean energy legislation has been repeatedly weakened or sidelined.

DeLeo’s central role has been alluded to by Vote Solar. “The leadership will have a strong say in what happens in the House,” noted Sean Garren. “In our experience little happens without the speaker having a strong say.”