Mass. passes 'diluted' PV bill

Legislators in Massachusetts, the fourth largest US solar market, failed to pass a hoped-for overhaul of the state’s solar policies, but did offer the sector some necessary near-term breathing room.

The bill which was approved late Thursday in Massachusetts’ House of Representatives lifted the caps on the amount of net-metered PV capacity that a utility can have on its system.

Massachusetts has separate caps for publicly- and privately-owned net-metered facilities – which have been lifted to 5% and 4%, respectively.

Although there was still room under the public cap, the private cap had already been reached.

Yet many important aspects of the bill – which had been the source of ferocious 11-hour lobbying efforts – did not make the final cut.

One of them was a move to enshrine a 1,600MW solar target by 2020 in Massachusetts law, first floated by Democratic Governor Deval Patrick last year, after the state reached its 250MW by 2017 target four years early.

Among other contentious issues at play was a monthly “minimum bill” that would have been charged to all electricity customers, even those who because of net-metering did not owe anything to the utility, in order to support grid upkeep.

Massachusetts installed 237MW of PV last year alone, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, leaving it with 464MW of cumulative capacity. The state is a national leader in non-residential rooftop installations.

The Alliance for Solar Choice, a rooftop PV lobbying group whose members include SolarCity, Sungevity and Verengo, praised the bill that passed, in spite of the gaps that it left.

“While the legislature left important work to state regulators, [the bill] establishes a framework for common ground,” it says.