3,052 Massachusetts solar jobs lost last year!

February 8, 2018
The Solar Foundation released a stunning report on the state of solar in Massachusetts.  They announced that Massachusetts had lost over 3,000 jobs in the last year or 21% of all solar jobs in Massachusetts. 

This is in addition to the 600 jobs lost in 2016. There are now just 11,530 solar jobs in Massachusetts, down from a high of 15,095 in 2015. That's 3,565 jobs lost in the last two years, most of them last year. 
As Senator Mike Barrett said recently, "There is a war being declared, a quiet one against solar energy and you're here to help us fight back. Thank you!"  And it is certainly true that we need your help. 

The solar industry in Massachusetts has been under attack on numerous fronts. 
Net metering caps have stalled projects in National Grid's territory compromising 170 communities across the Commonwealth for all but three months since March of 2015. That's almost three years now. 

Net metering caps are now in effect in National Grid, Unitil and WMECO territories, compromising 230 communities or two thirds of all the communities in the Commonwealth. 
Gov. Baker's administration's position is that there is no need to lift net metering caps. 

In February / March of 2016, when the SREC II program hit its program target goals, the administration had not yet put a follow on solar program in place. It wasn't until a year later that the administration announced that the SREC II program would be extended. Many projects were suspended or put on hold during that period. 

In July 2016, net metering compensation rates were cut by 40% for all but municipal projects and the smallest solar energy systems. These net metering cuts also hit low-income and community solar projects. 

In January 2017, Eversource submitted a rate case which proposed imposing an unprecedented, confusing and overly complicated new demand fee on residential solar customers.  The DPU approved that fee earlier this year. The so-called MMRC would raise the cost of going solar by $4,000 to $12,750 for residential solar customers over 20 years - assuming Eversource does not raise the fee over the next twenty years. 

Depending on the size of the solar energy system, this will increase the cost of going solar anywhere from 40% to as much as tripling the cost installing a solar energy system after taxes. 

MassSolar testified last week before the Telecom, Utilities and Energy (TUE) Committee asking them to take action to prohibit the imposition of new demand charges on solar customers. 

At the same time, Eversource has proposed eliminating residential Time of Use rates and the DPU has approved that as well. Time of Use rates are one of the best tools available to lower peak demand and hence lower the cost of everyone's rates. They do this by providing fair compensation for solar energy, encouraging adoption of energy efficiency measures and encouraging electric vehicle charging at appropriate times. 

Thankfully, the SMART program base compensation levels have recently been announced, but the program is still under review by the DPU and is not expected to be in effect until May or June. 

Unfortunately those SMART compensation levels were set prior to the approval of the MMRC and the imposition of the federal tariff on solar panels and so do not reflect the current market reality. 

In summary, if we want to renew the solar energy jobs engine in Massachusetts we will need to ask our Governor and our legislature to:
1) Eliminate net metering caps,
2) Prohibit the imposition of demand charges on residential customers,
3) Require that all customers be able to opt-in to time of use rates,
4) Restore full net metering credit rates for low-income and community solar installations, and 
5) Adjust the value of the SMART program to reflect current market conditions. 

MassSolar along with a number of other solar advocacy groups have sent a letter to Governor Baker outlining our concerns  and asking for immediate action to help us all accelerate our transition to a clean and renewable energy economy in Massachusetts.