August 5, 2012

Massachusetts energy act raises solar net-metering cap

Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass., has signed into law the 2012 Energy Act, a comprehensive energy bill that includes several solar-friendly provisions.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) praised the legislation, noting that, among other provisions, it increases Massachusetts' cap on solar net metering. A previous law, passed in 2008, required the state's major electric utilities to make net metering available to customers until the total program capacity reached 3% of the utility's peak demand.

Parts of the state reached that restrictive cap this year, effectively stymieing continued solar investment, SEIA says. The 2012 Energy Act increases participation in the program to 6%, split equally between public and private energy projects.

However, the 2012 Energy Act did not address what SEIA calls a "critical property tax issue" that could result in uncertainty for system developers. Carrie Cullen Hitt, vice president of state affairs for SEIA, says the group will work with the Massachusetts Municipal Association, the Patrick administration and the legislature in order to resolve the property-tax issue.

The 2012 Energy Act also drew praise from the New England Clean Energy Council, which noted that the new policy expands long-term contracting for renewable energy projects. According to the council, the new contract requirements will reduce financing costs for renewable energy project developers, which can pass on the savings to consumers.

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