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Pulling the Plug on Solar Reform

Posted by John Regan on Apr 6, 2016 3:05:08 PM

Massachusetts lawmakers last week imposed an $8 billion tax on electric ratepayers and put the money into the pockets of solar energy developers.

solarpanels.small.jpgThe state Legislature approved a bill that does nothing to reform the commonwealth’s bloated solar-energy subsidy program. The result: businesses and homeowners will continue to foot the bill for twice as much in solar giveaways as residents of other states.

Governor Charlie Baker said Friday that he will sign the measure.

And big solar isn’t done. Even before the ink dries on the current bill, solar energy advocates are rallying to raise the cap again before the end of the legislative session, continuing what appears to be a never-ending demand for government-mandated support.

“AIM supports the development of solar energy and takes pride in the fact that many of its 4,500 member employers have installed solar at their plants and offices,” said Robert Rio, Vice President of Government Affairs at AIM.

“But this bill represents lawmakers turning their backs on ratepayers to perpetuate an ideologically based energy policy.”

The solar bill that emerged from a legislative conference committee on Tuesday would raise the cap on net metering – the process by which solar developers sell excess electricity back to the power grid – by 60 percent for private projects and 75 percent for public projects. The primary reform contained in the measure would lower the net metering credit to 60 percent of the retail rate, but that reduction would not apply to facilities owned by municipalities and government entities.

“Municipalities and other government entities will still receive retail rates for net metering – a sad case of ‘taking care of your own’ while others pay,’ ” AIM said in a letter to the Legislature this morning.

The proposal will add $8 billion to the energy bills of Massachusetts consumers during the next 10 years - 2.0 cents/kilowatt hour for residential customers and 1.6 cents/kWh for Commercial and Industrial customers.   

AIM supports reform of solar subsidies because Massachusetts employers already pay some of the highest rates for electricity in the country. The legislature with the current bill has shown neither the will nor the inclination to say no to unnecessary subsidies, even when other states have reformed their programs in the face of falling costs for solar installations.

Solar subsidy advocates are already planning to seek additional increases in the program.

"With the bill's 3 percent increase to the program cap, we expect to address net metering again next year in order to avoid endangering solar jobs yet again,” said Sean Garren of VoteSolar.

AIM urges the state Senate not to pass the conference report and asked Governor Charlie Baker to veto it.

Topics: Massachusetts House of Representatives, Energy, Solar Subsidies

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