Sally Pick: ‘Compromise’ bill takes wrong turn on photovoltaics

Last modified: Monday, July 14, 2014
MONTAGUE — I’m concerned about the future of solar electricity produced by photovoltaics. Massachusetts House Bill 4185 threatens to seriously restrict solar incentives and options for homeowners, small businesses and community solar — endangering local jobs and limiting the potential to offset fossil fuel.

As the 2012 Solarize Montague coordinator and an energy consultant, I see this “compromise” bill as a barrier to our continued adoption of smaller scale solar.

While the bill has positive language removing the net metering cap to allow all solar installations to receive credit at a retail rate from utilities for their PV production, the utilities would receive significant benefits for this concession. For example, H 4185 would replace the solar renewable energy certificate (SREC) program, which has propelled the Massachusetts photovoltaics market, with an incentive administered by the utilities. SRECs drive investment in solar because they result in a short payback period.

The bill could prevent owners from sizing photovoltaics to exceed their use, in order to share solar electricity with others or cover future demands, like electric vehicles and expanded business operations.

All electricity customers would be charged a new monthly fee with no limits in the legislation, supposedly to cover the costs of PV to the utilities. The fee does not recognize the benefits of solar, including avoided system expansion.

I call on the Massachusetts House to address the current bill’s obstacles to smaller-scale solar investment. If that is not an option, then they should pass the bill only to remove the net metering cap and create an inclusive process for revising the rest of the legislation, including local solar businesses, solar owners and community shared solar developers at the table.

Anything less will put the growth of photovoltaics at risk of severe decline and would be counter to our state’s commitment to clean energy.

Sally Pick served as the coordinator for Solarize Montague.