Over the past 18 months, states across the country have seen utility companies and the solar industry embroiled in high-pitched battles about the future of rooftop solar. As CEOs from either side of the debates, one from a utility and the other from a national rooftop solar company, we rarely agree on the topic — until now. A landmark bill in the Massachusetts Legislature is the first major example of our two sides finding comprehensive common ground on solar policy.
If passed, the bill would help ensure a stable solar future for Massachusetts. It would also continue Massachusetts’ strong track record of leadership on renewable energy and set an example for other states across the country.
Among the agreements, the legislation would put in place Governor Patrick’s goal of installing 1,600 megawatts of solar in Massachusetts by 2020. Patrick announced this plan in May of 2013 after surpassing his original 250 megawatt goal four years early. In fact, National Grid recently interconnected a project that brings the company’s total amount of customer-owned solar in Massachusetts to 228 megawatts and is on pace to process about 5,000 applications for interconnections in Massachusetts this year. The new 1,600 megawatt goal affirms Massachusetts’ leadership in ensuring a cleaner future, and the proposal would further solidify the commitment.
The legislation would also remove the Massachusetts net metering cap for solar customers. Net metering policy gives rooftop solar customers retail credit for the surplus energy they put back on the grid. This bill proposes to eliminate any cap on the number of customers that can participate.
In addition, the proposal assures that the costs of the distribution system are supported by all users through electric rates in a fair manner. This reform demonstrates utilities’ and the solar industry’s joint commitment to aligning rate design and solar growth in a sustainable way.
The legislation also proposes to replace Massachusetts’ current solar incentive program with a more stable and efficient alternative. The new program will have incentive levels that reflect market realities and step down over time as solar costs continue to drop. This structure ensures predictability to encourage more private investment, job creation, and economic growth through the Massachusetts solar market.
Massachusetts has been at the forefront of change since our nation’s founding, and the passage of this legislation would build on that leadership. While heated debates between utilities and the solar industry continue across the country, Massachusetts can set the example for what common ground looks like.
We are proud to have the opportunity to participate in the state’s history of positive change. The program embedded in the bill will assure solar developers and owners are compensated fairly, while putting in place incentive structures that lower the costs of this important clean energy initiative for all electric consumers across the state.
Lynn Jurich is CEO of Sunrun. Marcy Reed is president of National Grid Massachusetts,