March 17, 2012

Massachusetts: Solar energy bill advances in Legislature

The state Legislature’s Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee this week advanced a clean energy bill that would increase the availability of the net-metering program.

SB 1664, "An Act Relative to Net-Metering," is a critical piece of expanding clean energy production across the state, according to the office of state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, who filed the bill.

The net-metering program is an important reason why installed solar electricity has increased 24-fold since 2008, the year the state Legislature passed the Green Communities Act, Eldridge’s office said.

Eldridge filed the bill in response to renewable energy businesses across the Commonwealth warning legislators that if the cap isn’t raised, the solar industry would be unable to expand and growth in the clean energy sector would plateau, causing businesses to shrink their workforce and look towards other states to continue to grow.

“This bill will ensure that Massachusetts remains a national leader in the solar industry, helping grow clean energy jobs while reducing carbon emissions here in our state,” said Eldridge, D-Acton. “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, and I commend the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy for their work on this legislation.”

If passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, the legislation will increase the cap on the net-metering program to 3 percent of peak-load for public and private buildings. This will allow more residents, municipalities and businesses to install solar and sell their excess power back to their utilities at fair market rates, effectively reducing pay-back periods for installations and making solar more affordable for more people, Eldridge’s office said.

“This legislation is significant in that leaders from across our Commonwealth have recognized the strong local demand for clean energy choice and the value, both economically and environmentally, of expanding clean energy access,” said Michael Stone, policy and regulations manager for My Generation Energy, a solar company based in Sandwich.

“This legislation will aid in reducing the hundreds of millions of dollars we send out of the state every week for oil, natural gas and coal, reduce future transmission expenditures and create more resilient communities across the Commonwealth as a result. For our customers – homeowners, businesses and landowners – net metering means having control over their energy future with proven and reliable distributed generation such as solar.”


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