An eleventh-hour compromise by the Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee effectively gutted the highly publicized net metering and solar power bill, which, as proposed, was considered by many including the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) to be a boon for solar development in the nation’s fourth largest solar market in terms of both installed capacity and total jobs. The original bill, dubbed H.4185, mandated a 1.6 GW target of solar capacity by 2020, imposed a monthly minimum charge on all electric customers for distribution system maintenance, removed annual capacity restrictions on large solar projects, and transformed the current market-based SREC system to a fixed declining block grant structure (similar to a feed-in-tariff) administered by the Department of Public Utilities. In exchange, the original bill removed the cap on net-metering limits so that all excess power could be sold back to utilities at retail rates.
When the dust settled all that survived—although just barely—in the compromise bill (H.4385) is a slight raise to the net-metering cap from 3% to 5% of peak load for public installations and 3% to 4% for private installations. This increase is intended as a quick fix to the logjam of projects hitting the metering caps while still tightly controlling the overall pace of solar growth to appease utilities. With these changes, the bill was passed by the Massachusetts House and Senate and is expected to be signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick. Continue reading this entry