While Massachusetts may be #4 in total installed solar, it will be the first state to have a special solar minimum monthly fixed charge (MMRC), coupled with a demand charge based on highest kW use in any given hour of the month for those who dare to install solar after 12/31/18. Then beginning in 2020, all installed solar will suffer the same punishment (except possibly low-income) as ordained in MGL Chapter 139, Section 164(j).
How did this happen? Back in 2015 Senate proposed a Omni-Energy Bill, the House/Governor countered with a Anti-Solar Bill, and the resulting compromise, Chapter 75 – Acts of 2016. Solar got a very small Net Meter Cap increase (gone in 3 months), and Solar lost everything else from the SREC program (to become SMART late 2018), Net Meter value (now Mkt Net meter @ 30% of former value), and the new MMRC (Minimum Monthly Reliability Charge). Eversource was the first utility to pioneer this new weapon against solar (MMRC) with both a special solar monthly fixed service charge, based on system size, but added a never before tried demand charge where the solar investor has no control or knowledge of this highest per hour use. Think it this way … every night you go to restaurant to have a $3.00 dinner during June, but one night you celebrate and have $10.00 dinner … but at end of the month, the restaurant gives you a bill for $300 instead of what the actual dinner total cost of $117.
Why is the Solar Industry not fighting back? Some did, Vote Solar, SEBANE, Acadia, SunRun, and MASOA were some of the very few that submitted testimony at Baker’s DPU hearings in the fall of 2017. None of this mattered as Eversource got their MMRC proposal with almost no conditions – they didn’t even have show it was revenue neutral or wouldn’t slow solar growth as required in the law. Also because of Eversource’s agreeing to only punish [for now] solar investors starting 2019, installers have rushed to get as much new solar installed before they have to tell customers about MMRC … but this of course is untrue, as all their customers will learn in 2020 that they too have been betrayed by the state when the utilities force all solar to install new demand meters or get NOTHING for their net metered kW they send back to the grid.
What can Solar Owners do NOW? We have only until July 31stbefore the legislature ends! The Senate has just past a new Omni-Energy bill on June 14th, again unanimously, S.2564. Included is a weak attempt to slow the MMRC by amending Section 164(j) to assess a demand charge only during peak hours [?], and provide meters to tell customers what their demand usage is at a reasonable cost [?], and not require all utilities to have their MMRCs approved by 12/31/18 (click here). This bill is now in House Ways and Means where it will likely be amended. We need to send our Representatives and all Ways & Means Reps, a letter, phone call, email to at minimum not strip out any MMRC language from the Senate bill, but also in support of the Governor’s public goal of adding another 1600 MW of new solar, eliminate Section 139(j) or at least revise to target goal of 1600 MW achieved in 2017 to the new Governor’s goal of 3200 MW (click here). For a list of House Representative contact info – click here.