Up until 2015 our state was ranked one of the highest to invest in solar energy. Then we elected a Republican Governor who received huge campaign donations from the Natural Gas industry. After gutting the Dept. of Energy Resources (DOER), and using the utility stranglehold on Net Metering, new anti-solar legislation found support in the House from Speaker DeLeo and other republicans (most with “D” after their names). Although the Senate made a valiant effort to save solar, Chapter 75 of the Acts of 2016 (click here) was passed into law in spring of 2016, giving a minor increase in amount of Net Metering, repealing SREC with a new “better” program (think republican Healthcare) called SMART … but the worst Trojan Horse implanted was to identify “net metering credits” as incentives rather than payments for electricity exported to the grid, and worse still, allow utilities to punish solar producers with a monthly minimum reliability contribution, MMRC (should they over produce or have no amount due on a month’s electric bill payment).
How the utilities killed solar is as simple as any other political tool to fool the public into believing a lie; example: get legislators to believe that electricity produced by solar has no value compared to electricity produced by fossil or nuclear energy, even though the truth is they sell PV exported solar electricity at the exact same rate to their customers. So solar electricity becomes a subsidized ratepayer expense, or in other terms, a costly incentive … after all, it’s right there on their monthly bill (never mind the utility has sold every solar kW twice). A recent conversation with Senate President Rosenberg confirmed that he believed net metering and other “solar incentives” needed to be drastically reduced so solar would be weaned off (get no payment) the back of ratepayers, and further solar owners should pay “something” for being allowed to connect to grid.
Solar growth will die because solar advocates and installers (out to make a quick buck) failed to counter-lobby the utilities and insist that solar energy, along with all renewables, has VALUE and needs to be seen as a NECESSARY replacement for fossil (including gas) fuel and nuclear power.
So what is the value of solar? Why not first find the value, then just use that value per kW to pay for it in a similar fashion as is done in Europe as a tariff? In 2015 a legislature mandated study group composed of six pro-solar and seven anti-solar (mostly utility reps) concluded after not being able to get consensus on anything else, that the State should in fact next contract through a non-biased organization a value of solar to replace net metering and SREC. The legislature never funded this study. Unfortunately, we got H4173 (now Chapter 75 of the Acts of 2016) written by and for the interests of the utilities. But we at MASOA firmly believe without such a study, such as has been done by Acadia, solar has little hope of reversing the idea solar has no value in a Trumpian world.
As solar growth dies off in the next few years, MASOA will go on the defensive. First we must stop and eliminate the MMRC. Click here to see our latest communication with the DPU. Next we need to get legislation, hopefully sponsored by the Attorney General, an amendment to Chapter 75 of the Acts of 2016 to eliminate MMRC. Then MASOA’s role in the dark years of SMART will be help those whose installations will [are] fail because of poor workmanship and faulty equipment, and find their warranty’s worthless because the quick-buck solar companies are no longer around. MASOA will advocate for solar investor consumer protection, that like General Contractors, will require solar installation licensing and a fund to help off-set losses to those who have been swindled.
Lastly, let us hope our children will succeed where we have failed in this era of Trump, Baker and DeLeo. In the meantime, join MASOA … we are always looking for board members and folks with time to help reach out to other members, and advocate support for solar to our legislators.