More than 120 people stand up for solar on Beacon Hill

April 8, 2015
Emily Rochon, Boston Community Capital

Massachusetts citizens, businesses, organizations and solar developers from across the Commonwealth gathered on Beacon Hill yesterday at the Stand Up for Solar lobby day.  More than 120 people met with or stopped by more than 130 legislative offices in a strong show of support for solar and the policies that have encouraged its development. Participants asked legislators to act quickly to address the net metering cap issue to keep solar working for Massachusetts.  Net metering in National Grid territory caps have stalled the development of municipal, community shared, low income and commercial solar projects and limited access to solar in 171 communities.  

Local media covered the event and some offered their view on net metering caps.  An opinion piece in today's Berkshire Eagle followed yesterday's coverage of the event, suggested that net metering caps "never should have been imposed in the first place on a field whose growth should be determined by the marketplace....This is a stalling tactic to stunt the growth of a solar industry whose success is not welcomed in certain circles."  The piece suggested a minimum bill as a solution to utility concerns that solar owners aren't paying their fair share to maintain the grid. Minimum bills and similar fixed charges have been employed in some states to slow the growth of solar, however. They also disproportionately impact low income and minoirty communities and can reduce the incentive to conserve electricity.

A Boston Globe article on the event also gave air time to National Grid, which opposes efforts to raise net metering caps.  National Grid's opposition to a net metering cap increase of any kind stems from their view that their "non-solar customers are subsidizing the significant expansion of solar, and those subsidies will increase as more solar comes on line under the existing rules.”  Such statements ignore the results from a number of recent studies (in states including Vermont, Maine, New York, Minnesota, Connecticut, and Missouri), that show solar net metering is a net benefit to all utility customers because solar provides significant benefits to the grid, economy and environment. In fact, no studies have been done in Massachusetts that show solar net metering raises overall system costs for Massachusetts customers or unfairly transfers any cost to non-solar customers. Utility claims along these lines are wholly unsubstantiated.

Solar enjoys broad support amongst Massachusetts voters, elected officials and local businesses.  In recent months, more than 340 city and town officials signed on to a letter asking Govenor Baker to support solar.  Just yesterday, Environment Massachusetts released a similar letter, signed by more than 500 local business owners, expressing support for more solar in the Commonwealth. The utilities distaste for solar runs counter to public opinion, public interest and public policy.  That's why we're asking legislators to listen to their constitutents and lead on this issue. Solar is working for Massachusetts.  Raise the caps so it can keep working.