New Solar Bills – Baker Balances

StateHouseWith Net Metering caps soon to be reached and the Solar Task Force far behind schedule, two solar bills have come forward to increase capacity now. The first An Act Relative to Net Metering (S869 and H2050), filed by Senator Anthony Petrucelli and Representative Frank Smizik will increase capacity a mere 2% for the public sector, 1% for the private sector, and is endorsed by the so-called grassroots “Mass Solar Coalition” (click here) which is made up mostly of former sponsors of H4185 (legislation MASOA helped defeat last year). Sadly we feel this proposed legislation falls short of its intent of allowing enough time to craft the best possible new future solar policies, so MASOA does not endorse this legislation except as a last resort.

The far better solution comes from Thomas Calter (Plymouth) and Paul Mark (Berkshire) H2297 (click here) in the House, and James Eldridge (Worcester) S1616 in the Senate (identical bills). The first of five sections calls for the state to produce 20% of electricity with renewables by end of 2025. Section two would increase the solar Net Meter Cap to 1600 megawatts (Gov. Patrick’s goal for 2020). Section four introduces the idea of developing an energy storage program. “This program shall be designed to enable cost effective energy storage systems that reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce demand for peak electrical generation, defer or substitute for an investment in distribution or transmission assets, provide back-up or emergency power, ancillary services, or improve the reliable operation of the distribution grid.” Section five further supports Community Shared Solar Systems by giving individual owners the same tax and net metering benefits as if the solar installation was on their own property, provided the individual owner is limited to 25 kW and/or 125% of their annual electric use.

While far from a comprehensive solution to the future of solar and renewable energy growth, MASOA strongly supports these bills as they address for now the Net Metering capacity issue that has been the leverage used by utilities to try to force solar development into accepting a carrot along with by a very large stick (as was done with H4185 last July). MASOA encourages you to ask your senator/representatives to sponsor and support H2297 & S1616.

Governor Baker Presents Balanced Energy Plan?

We have not heard much about how the Baker Administration will approach the state energy issues until a Boston Globe article (click here) from Jan. 27th. Like Obama, Baker has an all-energy-sources approach that focuses on affordability first and environmental consequences second. The plan as outlined would be to increase fracked gas supply pipelines “while creating the space for renewables to thrive.” No doubt we will learn more about this plan and how the billions of dollars of new gas pipelines will be subsidized as the new positions in the Dept. of Energy Resources (DOER) are filled in the coming few months.

Lastly, please consider joining MASOA (click here) … watch this website for more solar policy news.

2014 Lessons for Solar 2015 Policy

meg-lusardiMASOA began January 2014 believing that DOER was guiding the future for state solar growth by making the final adjustments to the SREC2 program, such as determining the final factor levels for “Managed Growth,” rules for Community Solar, and ending the front end Commonwealth Solar II incentive program. We supported the idea of a low interest solar loan program (now available – click here), and consumer protections for solar investment, especially with regard to solar leasing with little to no upfront cost. While we shared DOER concern about large out-of-state solar companies taking jobs and revenue out of Massachusetts, MASOA voiced concern that the proposed “Managed Growth” was too severe by restricting where large solar could develop and limiting the SREC to 70% of market value.

What we did not know was DOER was meeting secretly with large solar (SEIA, Vote Solar, NECEC) and electric utilities to rewrite the future of solar using the ALEC political playbook. DOER agreed to eliminate Managed Growth and remove caps on new net metering, in trade, utilities would gain control of future solar incentives via a new program called “Declining Block” along with limiting the size of Class 1 solar installations and cutting by more than 50% the value of Virtual Net Metering. For utilities the crown jewel was to require that solar owners pay a minimum bill that was designed to turn the rate payers against future solar growth and blame solar for increased rate costs. This was not a minor adjustment to solar policy, this was a complete overhaul, and solar organizations such as SEBANE and MASOA were purposely not allowed to comment when DOER sent the legislation to the state house in June 2014 to become House Bill 4185, giving us only a month to act before it would be voted on July 30th at the end of the legislative session. During this time MASOA strongly advocated legislators to just “Raise the [Net Metering] Cap.” Fortunately solar had an old friend in Rep. Kulik who was able to keep H4185 from leaving the Ways and Means Committee, thus avoiding a chance it would pass due to enormous lobbying efforts by big solar and utilities.

While we succeeded in getting a minor Net Metering Cap increase, the utilities and big solar did manage to legislate that a Solar Task Force (STF) be created with basically only their interests represented once again (although SEBANE did manage to snag one of seventeen seats at the table). As of the first week in January, STF has met three times, and accomplished little other than to seek public comment concerning future solar policy (click here for MASOA response). With a target date of March 30 to propose new solar legislation, time is running short, further challenged by the leaving of DOER and STF co-chairs Lusardi and McKeever. Once again the legislation to raise both public and private Net Meter Caps is already being considered, thus the Baker administration may wait to next year when Federal incentives begin to end to again look at solar policy changes.

MASOA 2015 Goals and Mission:

If 2014 taught us anything it is to be vigilant that political deception is very much a reality. However, we can take comfort that as John Ward aptly stated last June … “it is a lot harder to pass a bill than to stop one.” MASOA is not alone in this vigilance, beginning last August Russ Aney (SEBANE) and Emily Rochon (BCC) began a Google Mass Solar Group which is a forum open to all solar stakeholders to share views and information, watch for monthly summaries on this web page. Future solar policy is too important to be rushed, or to serve just the best interests of the electric utilities, so this is why our #1 priority should be to once again “Just Raise the Net Meter Cap” in 2015 – and not by a mere 1% or 2%.

Now that MASOA has an elected Board (see Administration), we will begin the next steps to formalize and grow our membership. As a member we want you to participate in your organization. We want to hear from you and your ideas, whether they are about the website, local solar zoning, community solar legislation, etc.

War On Solar Continues


SolarHeroWhat war … you may say … everywhere you go there is more solar installations, bright orange and yellow lawn signs announcing new ones to come. And besides, didn’t we stop H4185? Yes, but there was a catch in the compromise bill S2214 that increased the Net Metering Cap a meager 1% private and 2% public, it called for a new Solar Task Force comprised of 17 members, 16 of which were supporters of H4185, and only 1 being an actual solar stakeholder (SEBANE). This Solar Task Force has met for the first time on Nov. 13th in Boston. Both John Ward and Claire Chang, MASOA members attended (read Claire’s report – click here). The bottom line is that there is likely going to be little support for future solar growth with utilities and so-called ratepayer [corporate fossil fuel] advocates looking to crush solar and renewables by incrementally removing incentives such as net metering and SRECs with the reasoning that renewables should be cost competitive with fossil fuels (who currently get four times more federal subsidies click here) in the best interest of the ratepayer when planning the state’s energy solutions. It will be up to grassroots groups and organizations, such as MASOA, to be on the side of protecting our environment and our children’s future by educating our legislators that we must invest in renewables today and convince our utilities to redraft their business models to become earth sustainable rather than just in the best financial interest of stockholders.

How can you help solar to continue to grow in Massachusetts? Join MASOA … it is simple, just click here, or the membership button above. You can be a solar owner, whether on your property, or part of a community solar farm, or you simply want clean solar energy to replace the 636,000 megawatts of fossil and nuclear fuel generation scheduled to be retired in the next ten years.

Read More…

Largest Climate Change March in NYC

Climate 1No doubt many of you participated in the largest Climate March in NYC on Sept. 21st attended by over 300,000 diverse environmental and renewable energy groups. It became obvious early on that the March organizers had not planned for so many of us, but it seemed the police were … I have never seen so many police officers and barricades. It is unclear why the march that was to begin at 11:30 did not begin until 2:30, or why the barricades separated those marching from the many booths set up on the Central Park sidewalk forcing those of us to go into the park to access the booths or other march groups. At the end many said they felt the March lacked leadership and a strong political message, although several politicians and actors were spotted within the march.

Read More…

H4185 Stopped, Net Meter Increase, MASOA Future

MASOA-logo-webThe last days of July were very nerve racking as it remained unclear whether an an even worse amended version of H4185 (click here) would come out of Ways & Means, or whether a simple Net Metering Cap increase amendment would surface, and with luck, replace H4185 and all the damage to the state solar industry it would bring. Many brave legislators withstood the lobbying pressures of the utilities and large-out-of-state solar investors and in the waning hours of July 31st chose to “Just Raise the Cap” by amending H4385 to raise the Net Meter Cap 1% for the private sector, and 2% for the public sector, assuring numerous stalled projects to go ahead (click here).

Read More…

Why Not JUST Amend Current Net Metering Law?

RaiseCapLogoA little over an hour into a meeting with Representative Kulik on July 7th, answering his questions and giving him a presentation on MASOA’s five amendment proposals to fix and correct H4185 (click here), he made this simple, yet perfect suggestion, “if the one issue that we can all agree on is that the Net Metering capacity needs to be increased to insure that solar PV growth in Massachusetts is not disrupted, then why not add an amendment to another bill (like the Environmental Bond Bill) to do just that.” This would take the pressure off the Ways & Means Committee to try and fix H4185, and still send it flawed and full of incomplete changes to the House for a vote. With the insurance of Net Metering being addressed as an add-on to another bill that is likely to pass in both houses, the changes and proposals in H4185 can go back to the DOER where the Mass. Solar Stakeholders who were denied input and opinion can do so in a transparent and democratic method not unlike the process to enact SRECII just this past April.

Read More…

Dear State Representative/Senator, We Vote, Utilities Don’t

Question to Legislators: The new bill H4185 has been called the “Net Meter Compromise Bill” by the DOER and utility friendly media … we disagree! Our question, dear state legislators, if H4185 is truly a compromise between utilities and the solar/environmentalists, why was it drafted in secret solely by the utilities and utility sponsored out-of-state solar organizations who represent only 2% of state solar stakeholders and owners? Now we see this special interest legislation railroaded through the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy from the DOER with no public input or input from local or state organizations such as SEBANE or MASOA, for this reason alone H4185 should never have left the JCTUE for consideration by Ways & Means. So far every opportunity to speak on behalf of the rest of the 98% of the solar industry and owners has been blocked. Just yesterday (6/19/14) a closed legislative hearing on H4185 was presented by the utilities and DOER. It was open only to legislators, and prohibited to public attendance or input. Again we ask you, dear legislator, if this legislation is really going to benefit the future of solar in our state, not just the utilities and their allies, why are these hearings blocked to the majority of the solar owners/industry and the public? What do the utilities fear we, the solar stakeholder will tell you about H4185?

Read More…

Will Utility/DOER Compromise Solar PV Future?

No doubt, you, like most other solar owners, are wondering how could the Patrick Administration and DOER have allowed the utilities to takeover the future of solar PV. There is no question the “Compromise Net Metering Bill,” must be stopped or significantly altered. It is sad to report that the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy voted with little or no discussion to approved the Utility & DOER collaboration, have sent it on to Ways & Means for additional review. Again make no mistake this legislation will negatively effect every solar owner. MASOA stands against this bill now numbered H4185 (click here for full bill text) for the following reasons, and ask everyone reading this to write their legislators to protest both the content and the process used to railroad it through the legislature for the benefit of the utilities:

Legislative Process

  • Solar owners and the local photovoltaic installers industry and other sectors were excluded from the closed-door discussions that produced this bill.
  • The “Compromise Bill” is not a compromise but rather a secret sweetheart deal between the utilities, utility favored (and sponsored) solar organizations and DOER.
  • The pace at which the “Compromise Bill” is being moved through disregards the ability for all stakeholders to adequately comment and make revisions.

Substantive Impacts

Read More…

DOER facilitates “Compromise Net Meter Bill” for Utilities

DOERIn a surprise move, the DOER recently sat down with two utilities, NU and NGRID and two utility sponsored solar associations, SEIA and NECEC, to draft what has been titled “Compromise Net Meter Legislation” (click here). To date there is no sponsor or a bill number in either house, but what is clear is that the future of solar PV ownership incentives will be under the control of the utilities who have historically made every effort to kill solar at every opportunity, recently quoted calling solar PV owners “free-loaders” in the Boston Business Journal.

 What is important to understand at this time (June 10) is that hopefully this terrible legislation will not be introduced to the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee (JCTUE) by June 15 in order to be considered for vote this summer. So we are asking everyone to support S2019 / H3901 (click here) and send emails, phone calls, letters ASAP, to learn more click here.

Read More…

Attorney General Reviews Local Solar Zoning Bylaws

220px-Martha_Coakley_cropWhen the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) issued its’ Model Solar Guide (click here) and Model Solar Zoning Bylaw (click here) it was meant to help towns achieve reasonable regulations for compliance with state law 40A Section 3 that reads as follows: No zoning ordinance or by-law shall prohibit or unreasonably regulate the installation of solar energy systems or the building of structures that facilitate the collection of solar energy, except where necessary to protect the public health, safety or welfare.

Many towns have passed solar bylaws the Attorney General’s (AG) office approved, sometimes with cautions. For a list of these towns click here and look for “Bylaw Type.” All the towns that have received AG approval with cautions have adopted very restrictive solar zoning bylaws that do not conform to the DOER suggested models. Many of these towns actually do prohibit solar development. Marion prohibits solar that can be seen from land or water. Lincoln prohibits solar energy that is sold (net metered). Your town may be composing or voting on Solar by-laws to submit to the Municipal Law Unit of the AG’s office for approval.

MASOA urges you to get active in your town and support the DOER model by-laws.

Read More…