Senate saves solar from House bill, but net metering caps remain in place

November 20, 2015
Emily Rochon, MassSolar

The legislature adjourned on Wednesday evening without agreeing to compromise solar legislation.  This is both good news and bad news. The good news is that the extreme policy measures in the House bill won’t become law any time soon.  The bad news is that net metering caps remain in place and will continue to prevent projects from moving forward in 171 communities.

The last couple of days of the legislative session were a roller coaster.  After the House passed its shocking legislation (by a vote of 150-2), the Senate countered with a better bill that the House then rejected.  A conference committee was then convened to negotiate a compromise. 

The conference committee was unable to come to an agreement after several hours of negotiating.  That’s because our allies in the Senate (particularly Senator Downing, Senator Pacheco and Senator Tarr), held fast and refused to agree to provisions that would put the brakes on solar in Massachusetts.  Thanks to them, we live to fight another day. 

The incredible part of this story is that the Democratically-controlled House passed (by a vote of 150-2) legislation that was WORSE for solar than the bill our Republican Governor introduced this summer. Compared to the Baker bill, the House legislation is more anti-solar in two key respects: (1) net metering compensation; and (2) minimum billing.  After slashing net metering compensation for all but small solar projects, the House bill adds insult to injury by tacking on a minimum bill for all solar projects.  The Governor's bill lowered compensation for all but small solar projects, but not to the same extent the House bill did and it didn't include a minimum bill provision. Read a comparison of the bills, including the Senate legislation, here.

How did this happen?  It seems the House is bowing to pressure from utilities and business groups to halt the growth of solar.  In recent weeks, we've highlighted on this  blog the solar disinformation campaign these groups are waging on Beacon Hill.  They'll say anything to get their way.

The legislature is now in recess until January. It is very unlikely that a solar bill will move forward before the end of the year while they are in this “informal” session.  That’s because a single objection from a single legislator is enough to prevent a bill from passing during an informal session. 

In the meantime, it's important to thank all of our Senators for supporting solar and stopping the House's bill.  If you haven't already, please send an e-mail or tweet to Senate President Rosenberg, Senator Downing and your Senator thanking them for their good work.