Solar industry organizations welcome sweeping climate change bill passed in Massachusetts

The bill would require the state to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.


KEY POINTS
  • The bill would require the state to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
  • It offers tax breaks for utilities and entities that adopt small solar systems over the coming decade.
  • It also relaxes the state’s net metering thresholds for solar PV energy.

Massachusetts — The Massachusetts Legislature passed, “An Act Creating A Roadmap for the Next Generation of Climate Policy,” which contains numerous policy proposals related to clean energy, including measures that clarify tax treatment for solar projects. This development comes after the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) negotiated a compromise with state tax assessors.



Following is a statement from David Gahl, senior director of state affairs at SEIA on the new climate bill:

“This legislation is a roadmap that will ultimately help the Commonwealth of Massachusetts decarbonize its economy. There are several positive developments for the solar industry, including measures that encourage the SMART program to serve more low-to-moderate income customers and exempt certain businesses from the Commonwealth’s solar net metering caps.

“After months of negotiations, the bill now includes a provision that clarifies how taxes are assessed by towns and municipalities on wind, solar and energy storage systems. In short, homeowners and small businesses will not see their property taxes increase when they install small solar systems. Larger solar systems will be exempt from taxes if they already have an agreement in place for other tax payments.

“This is a reasonable framework and one that should provide clarity to the tax law and increased certainty for both large and small solar firms. We commend the legislature for including this compromise in the final version of the roadmap and we urge Governor Baker to sign this bill into law.”

The bill builds upon the 2008’s Global Warming Solutions Act by creating interim carbon emissions targets for 2030, 2035, 2040 and 2045 as well as ‘sub-limits’ for major sectors (e.g. electric power, transportation, heating and cooling). Notably, the bill would codify environmental justice definitions into state law, strengthening much-needed environmental protections for vulnerable, typically low income, communities of colour. It also directs the creation of a net-zero stretch building code, giving municipalities greater control over the quality and efficiency of new construction projects.

While this bill represents a significant step forward, work remains to address emissions in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, it fails to include a commitment to source 100 percent of the state’s electricity from renewable sources in a reasonable timeline and does not fully tackle our state’s largest source of greenhouse gases: the transportation sector.

In response, Jacob Stern, Massachusetts Chapter Deputy Director for the Sierra Club, issued the following response:

“By adding interim carbon pollution reduction targets and enshrining a definition of environmental justice in law, this bill serves as a critical and necessary step forward. Our window for climate action is closing and we must act urgently to embrace a fossil fuel-free future. We call upon Governor Baker to sign this bill into law.”

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