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Senate Adopts Downing Amendment on Net-Metering


Staff Reports
08:45PM / Thursday, July 23, 2015

BOSTON – An amendment by state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing increasing the state’s solar net-metering cap was adopted by the Senate on Thursday.

The measure, designed to promote future solar development, aligns the net metering cap with the state’s 1,600 MW goal of installed solar capacity and further directs the Department of Energy Resources to create a new solar incentive program when the 1,600 MW goal is reached.

Net metering allows residential and commercial customers who generate their own electricity from solar power to receive a credit for the unused electricity they feed back to the grid. The cap, which limits what utilities have to buy, was hit in March for National Grid, slowing and delaying a number of projects, including in Berkshire County.

Downing, who has served as the Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy for three terms, identified action on solar policy as an early priority this session.

“Massachusetts is a national leader in clean energy issues and tackling climate change,” said the Pittsfield Democrat in a statement. “Continuing net metering is about building on that leadership. I’m glad my colleagues supported my amendment and look forward to working with our friends in the House of Representatives and the Baker administration to see this language signed into law.”

Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration said it supports further incentives that also take into account the effect on ratepayers who do not benefit from solar.

There are several net-metering bills in the House, including one sponsored by state Rep. Paul W. Mark, D-Peru.

The amendment was adopted during debate on S. 1973, An Act providing for the establishment of a comprehensive adaptation management plan in response to climate change. The amendment sets up a long-term framework for solar development, while allowing for continued development prior to the expiration of the Federal Solar Tax credit on Dec. 31, 2016.

Downing’s amendment seeks to ensure the future growth of vitural metering and community shared solar, which allows equitable access to solar development for residents who may not otherwise be able participate. The amendment also grandfathers existing projects, ensuring that today’s solar installations will not be negatively impacted by future changes developed by DOER post-1,600 MW.

S. 1973 was engrossed by the Senate today, and will now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.