Net metering has become a contentious issue in the state of Massachusetts, and if anyone had hoped for a resolution, they will have to wait a little longer. A legislative task force -- the Massachusetts Net Metering and Solar Task Force -- released a report last week to talk about the solar energy industry, as well as the 3 percent net metering cap in the state, but did not decide on whether they will raise the net metering cap.
|National Grid's Dorchester solar project. Credit: National Grid|
After the release of the report, the task force decided not to make any moves on the results. National Grid's net metering capacity is full, and the utility has been forced to implement a waiting list.
"The net metering caps must be lifted immediately. National Grid, one of the largest territories, has hit both of their caps. The solar industry is going to come to a grinding halt," the report said. "Without the assurance of net metering, investors and developers will not continue to invest money in this state and the solar industry. If that happens, jobs will be lost."
The report found that customers of Massachusetts utilities Eversource and National Grid could be spending close to $3.8 billion on solar between 2015 and 2020 -- or around $600 million a year, "which is clearly unsustainable," the report said. About one-third of this number is related to net metering.
According to the Boston Globe, many members of the task force supported raising the net metering caps. However, utilities like National Grid and Eversource Energy opposed raising those caps.
"When owners of solar are allowed to reduce their electric bills with net metering, they are not paying for the benefits they receive from being connected to the grid, and those costs are passed on to customers who do not or cannot own solar," Mary-Leah Assad, National Grid spokesperson, told FierceEnergy. "In addition, the added net metering credits new net metered customers would receive are paid for by all other customers. National Grid strongly supports the continued growth of solar in Massachusetts and we are committed to working with our partners to ensure customers are not overpaying for the benefits of solar."
National Grid believes there are many opportunities for net metering -- and they are better served through a long-term sustainable plan to support the growth of solar in the state, "while ensuring that customers, especially those who do not have solar, are not unfairly carrying the costs of those subsidies," Assad told FierceEnergy.
National Grid believes the state of Massachussetts could move to a competitive bid model similar to the one Rhode Island has. Assad explained that "this approach has resulted in many projects being procured for less than $200/megawatt-hour (MWh), compared to the current value in MA of $450-600/MWh."
Another opportunity would be the elimination or curtailment of virtual net metering, and going back to proper sizing of solar to the customer's on-site load "as net metering was always designed to do," Assad explained.
The report found that the failure to raise net metering caps in the state could hurt solar development, but the utilities are opposed to raised caps because they are advocating for their customers.
"It is our customers who are affected," Assad explained to FierceEnergy. "We are always looking for ways to manage the costs our customers pay on their electric bills. Our customers will continue to be subject to increased costs every year and raising the cap is not necessary to ensure continued growth of solar in Massachusetts or to meet the Commonwealth's solar goal of 1600 MW by 2020."
- read the report