H.4173 is a compromise bill that will raise net metering caps. This will provide a path forward, but may ultimately be shortsighted.
The 3% increase in the cap will only float the industry through the next year or two, leaves a gap between the poorest and wealthiest in the state when it comes to solar access, and does not address the SREC program – a major driver for the state’s solar boom.
But, here is what it does address and what you need to know:
1. H.4173 offers to raise the net metering caps
Net metering caps will be raised in Massachusetts for all sectors, keeping rates the same for residential and municipal projects.
2. However, it will lower them for commercial and community projects
While we agree with the need to achieve a rate that is sustainable going forward, it seems that community solar holds some of the best promise – both in terms of efficiency of install / siting and also in terms of its ability to serve low income residents. Why knock a program that raises living standards for those who need it the most?
3. It’s probably a stopgap solution
The first 4% (Private Cap) and 5% (Public Cap) were reached in record time with over 30% of the cap coming in just this winter. At that rate, adding only an additional 3% could put us in the same situation next winter. Massachusetts can do a better job at providing stability to both residents and a budding solar industry by providing a longer runway for certainty and development. We’ll take the current compromise, due to the urgency of the situation, but we expect more from our lawmakers in the coming months – more proactive planning, and better business thinking.
4. The door is open for a standard bill charge not able to be offset by solar.
This provision is reasonable, but needs definition and can open a Pandora’s box if not limited to a reasonable monthly fee that does not significantly impact solar returns.
We still maintain that fully unlimiting net metering in the residential sector and providing a longer runway in other sectors while reducing incentives like the SREC program in regular and planned ways represents a better path to the future.
While there may come a time when the value of solar compared to traditional generation does not warrant a greater return, that time is yet in the future. Solar is not currently replacing base loads and is only just beginning to make a dent in exorbitant peak prices (even fully incentivized solar is often cheaper than peak power by 25-50%).
Let’s keep the train rolling and add grid interactive battery backup to the mix to offset the intermittency of renewables and really take on the peak generation market!