Boston, MA – Governor Patrick signed a bill today that will dramatically expand access to solar energy for families, businesses and local governments. The bill, An Act relative to competitively priced electricity in the Commonwealth, makes refinements to the state’s Green Communities Act and includes provisions to enhance the development of solar, wind and energy efficiency programs. Among the major improvements was an expansion of the net-metering program, which allows local governments, businesses and homeowners to sell the electricity they generate from solar panels and other small onsite renewable energy sources back to utilities to offset their electric bills, and even generate some revenue. The cap on so-called net-metering was lifted from 1% of peak load for private generation and 2% for public generation to 3% for both private and public entities. This means that a total of 6% of Massachusetts’ electricity can now be net-metered.
"Solar is an unlimited, pollution free resource with no fuel costs that will help Massachusetts meet our energy and environmental goals. This bill will take Massachusetts to the next level of leadership on renewable energy. We look forward to the governor signing this bill in to law,” said Ben Wright, advocate with Environment Massachusetts. Net-metering is a critical part of the state’s clean energy plan. Homeowners, municipalities and businesses credit the program as being a primary driver behind a 30-fold increase in solar in just the last four years.
Expanding solar programs, including the net-metering program, has been a priority for Environment Massachusetts, our members and our allies, including dozens of solar businesses, and many others who want more access to solar energy. The support of homeowners, businesses and local officials has played a critical role in helping get the bill to the governor’s desk: Over 60 solar business—including 25 that came to Beacon Hill for a lobby day—have contacted legislators directly; 18 cities and towns have passed resolution in support of raising the cap; and nearly nine thousand individual residents have signed petitions to their legislators urging them to expand the net-metering program.
In addition to the net-metering cap increases, the legislation passed today directs each utility company to purchase an additional 4% of their electricity through long-term renewable energy contracts, Long-term contracts give renewable energy developers and Massachusetts ratepayers price-certainty, which works as a hedge against volatile fossil fuel prices.
“This bill will ensure that Massachusetts remains a national leader in solar energy, helping to grow clean energy jobs while reducing carbon emissions here in our state. Increasing the net metering cap will allow communities across the Commonwealth to continue to build on the work they’ve already done to increase their use of clean energy. It’s a great step forward,” said Senator James Eldridge (D-Acton).
“This bill is very important for the long-term growth of the solar industry in Massachusetts, and we couldn’t be more pleased with the legislature today. I want especially recognize the hard work and leadership of Sen. Ben Downing and Rep. John Keenan, co-chairmen of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, as well as the guidance and vision of Secretary Sullivan and Governor Patrick. The net-metering provisions of the bill will complement other key policies by increasing the cap on the net-metering program to 3% of peak-load for public buildings and 3% of peak-load for private buildings. This will allow more residents, municipalities and businesses who install solar to sell their excess power back to their utilities at fair market rates,” concluded Wright.
Environment Massachusetts is a statewide citizen based environmental advocacy organization working to protect clean air, clean water and open spaces.