DeLeo prefers omnibus energy bill

Wants to deal with solar, wind, gas, hydro in one measure

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

HOUSE SPEAKER ROBERT DELEO said he wants to avoid a piecemeal approach to energy law changes and would prefer to deal with them all in a single bill.

The Senate has attached to a climate change adaptation bill (S 1979) a move to lift the cap on the number of solar megawatts eligible for a specific incentive, and Baker filed legislation (H 3724) that would lift the cap a different way. Baker also filed a bill that could facilitate the purchase of hydroelectricity from Canada.

Solar industry representatives have pushed for action to lift the net metering cap, which determines how many megawatts of commercial and public-sector solar energy can be sold back to the grid at the retail rate, which is significantly higher than the wholesale price.

DeLeo would prefer solar policy be wrapped into an omnibus bill.

“What I’m trying to do is try to get a comprehensive piece of legislation on energy so that we address solar, we address off-shore wind, on-shore wind, hydro, gas,” DeLeo said while attending the Democratic state convention in Springfield on Saturday.

“Now if, if we find that we’re moving a little bit slower than we had hoped because it’s an all-encompassing issue – it’s a very deep issue – then we may possibly think about taking that out of order, but I would rather, and my hope would be we can do it all as one,” he said.

The Legislature last session was unable to agree on an expansive solar energy bill and in 2010 efforts to pass a comprehensive bill overhauling the process for land-based wind projects collapsed.

Lawmakers in 2012 did pass a follow-up to the Green Communities Act, which was signed by then-Gov. Deval Patrick, that expanded the cap on solar net metering, more than doubled the amount of renewable energy utilities must purchase through long-term contracts, and required more frequent regulatory rate reviews to try to control prices.

House Speaker Pro Tem Patricia Haddad has proposed energy legislation and Rep. Tom Golden Jr. is in his first year of co-chairing the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy.

More than seven months ago, DeLeo flagged energy as one of his priorities for the new two-year session. DeLeo in February pointed to high energy prices as a “significant” burden to working families, young residents and businesses.

The clean energy industry helps decrease costs, he told representatives. “Continued support for this thriving sector is critical as we work to maintain a safe, reliable energy grid and reduce our carbon emissions,” DeLeo said during a Feb. 11 address in the House. “This session, I will find new ways to support cost-effective clean energy policies for ratepayers and help achieve our clean energy goals.”

Asserting caps have stalled solar power development, the Massachusetts Solar Coalition in a letter to committee members this month said 12,000 residents “rely on solar for their living” and urged lawmakers to raise solar net metering caps “as quickly as possible.”

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Andy Metzger

Reporter, CommonWealth magazine

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

About Andy Metzger

Andy Metzger joined CommonWealth Magazine as a reporter in January 2019. He has covered news in Massachusetts since 2007. For more than six years starting in May 2012 he wrote about state politics and government for the State House News Service.  At the News Service, he followed three criminal trials from opening statements to verdicts, tracked bills through the flumes and eddies of the Legislature, and sounded out the governor’s point of view on a host of issues – from the proposed Olympics bid to federal politics.

Before that, Metzger worked at the Chelmsford Independent, The Arlington Advocate, the Somerville Journal and the Cambridge Chronicle, weekly community newspapers that cover an array of local topics. Metzger graduated from UMass Boston in 2006. In addition to his written journalism, Metzger produced a work of illustrated journalism about Gov. Charlie Baker’s record regarding the MBTA. He lives in Somerville and commutes mainly by bicycle.

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“The Coalition commends both the Senate and the Governor for acting on legislation that addresses the Commonwealth’s solar net metering caps with the urgency they deserve. It is time for the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee to lead the House in following suit,” the coalition wrote.

Matt Murphy contributed reporting to this story.