DeLeo is the reason solar on hold
Fast-growing industry is being hung out to dry
THERE IS A GROWING SENTIMENT of frustration among the business community in Massachusetts. As businesses from manufacturing to service, small to large, and from all corners of Massachusetts met with lawmakers on Feb. 11, their message was clear and unanimous: Massachusetts businesses support solar energy development.
However, due to inaction by House Speaker Robert DeLeo, solar development in the state has been effectively put on hold. This week, the major solar incentive program which issues solar renewable energy certificates (SREC II) hit its limit as the amount of installed solar capacity in Massachusetts quickly reaches 1,600 MW. As concerned constituents and business leaders flood the State House with emails and phone calls, members of the House of Representatives need to take this urgent issue to the Speaker’s office.
Major utility companies and associated interest groups have sought to dominate the conversation with a misinformation campaign about the exorbitant costs of solar while choosing to ignore the many benefits. Most notably they have lead the charge to falsely portray the net metering program as a subsidy when in reality it provides homeowners and businesses with fair compensation for the excess solar power they give back to the grid.
As net metering caps have been hit in 175 communities in the Commonwealth and with the SREC II program expiring, the state’s solar economy is at a standstill. Solar businesses across the state are starting to feel the effects of this industry slowdown. Due to the caps, companies have started to lay off employees. If we do not act soon, these businesses are going to start moving their operations to out-of-state competitors such as California, North Carolina, New York, and New Jersey.
Thankfully, some lawmakers are starting to stand up for solar. In a recent press conference with the Climate Action Business Association, Rep. Marjorie Decker aired a view shared by a majority of her colleagues in the House of Representatives, asserting that “now is the time to regroup and advocate with legislators to act in the interest of lifting the cap, to strengthen community solar, and protect low-income households.” Decker recommended a stronger solar bill that would be “not only good for the environment, [but] essential to the Massachusetts economy.” Business leaders are encouraging members of the House to understand the urgency of the situation and develop innovative solutions to the current inaction.
Massachusetts businesses overwhelmingly agree with Decker’s sentiment, for the simple reason that solar is good for everyone. Even if a business does not take advantage of solar directly, solar power increases both economic resiliency and health benefits, while reducing transmission losses and preventing the need to invest in costly additional infrastructure to meet peak demand.
While all parties agree that the next SREC program should be gradually reduced in size, the cap on net metering needs to be lifted. Having an arbitrary cap on the fair compensation for solar development increases uncertainty in the market, drives up costs, and reduces investment in the local energy economy. In addition, keeping the net metering credit rate at retail value will ensure that low-income, community shared, or municipal solar projects can move forward.
Massachusetts needs more leaders within the Legislature to answer the call to action. Unless members of the House recognize the need for dynamic solutions to lift the caps, not only does the Commonwealth risk losing its competitive edge, it risks losing its role as a clean energy leader.Kate Galbo is the Policy Coordinator of the Climate Action Business Association.