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Massachusetts Leaders Warn Against Change In Proposed Solar Power Bill

By: Brett Reyes |

An agreement in ME reached by stakeholders on both sides, however, would end most net metering and instead allow utilities to pay rates set by regulators under 20-year price agreements with homeowners and small businesses.

The state’s utilities oppose keeping the higher retail rates.

On Monday, dozens of MA mayors and town managers warned that the proposed change to a lower wholesale net metering rate could jeopardize planned municipal solar projects across the state.

The caps have already been hit in National Grid’s service area, causing many large solar projects to be shelved. The guide examines models that open up solar access to affordable housing developments and low-income households, citing Massachusetts’ solar loan program and Green Communities Act of 2008 as successful examples.

The system lowers consumers’ monthly electricity bills as well as cuts into utilities revenue – triggering conflict between conventional electricity companies and solar providers.

Downing points out that using net metering and other incentives put in place during the administration of former Gov. Deval Patrick the state saw solar power grow from 2 megawatts installed to 1,000 megawatts.

The 100 representatives have now coalesced around a more pro-solar approach than the bill that almost all of them voted for in November.

Following is a statement from Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), applauding 100 members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives for writing House leadership in support of legislation to assure strong net energy metering policies.

State Rep. Cory Atkins, one of the lawmakers who signed the letter, urged quick action.

A six-member conference committee is now working to hammer out a single compromise version of separate bills approved by the House and Senate. Western Massachusetts representatives who signed the letter, all Democrats, include: Smitty Pignatelli of Lenox, Brian Ashe of Longmeadow, Gailanne Cariddi of North Adams, Tricia Farley-Bouvier of Pittsfield, Michael Finn of West Springfield, Peter Kocot of Northampton, Stephen Kulik of Worthington, Paul Mark of Peru, Angelo Puppolo of Springfield, John Scibak of South Hadley, Ellen Story of Amherst, Benjamin Swan of Springfield, Jose Tosado of Springfield and Aaron Vega of Holyoke.

Ben Hellerstein, State Director for Environment Massachusetts said solar power expansion in Massachusetts is being stymied.

Bachrach said he was surprised so many lawmakers signed the letter, indicating a major shift from the House’s stance in November.