Time running short on solar

With time starting to run short on Beacon Hill, solar power advocates are mounting an inside-outside campaign to convince a six-member legislative conference committee to lift the cap on net metering.

Inside the State House, the advocates played a key, behind-the-scenes role in convincing 100 House members to walk away from a previous vote slashing net metering rates and to sign a petition urging the conference committee to approve a bill similar to what the Senate has proposed. Net metering refers to the rate solar power generators are paid for the electricity they feed into the grid.

Outside the State House, solar advocates have also been making their case in a series of opinion pieces. Stephen Christy, the president and CEO of Sustainable Energy Professionals in Plainville, said the inaction on Beacon Hill has forced him to lay off his five employees. He also said the net metering cap is driving his firm out of Massachusetts and into New York.

Zaid Ashai, the CEO of Nexamp, says the opponents of solar focus strictly on the cost and ignore the many benefits. He argues that net metering shouldn’t even be viewed as a financial incentive to solar developers.

The solar advocates have also tried to undercut arguments made by utilities that solar is far too expensive. Fred Unger, president of the Heartwood Group, blames the high cost of electricity not on solar but on an outmoded utility business model. Peter Shattuck and Mark LeBel of the Acadia Center make a similar argument, suggesting that utilities are biased against solar because it reduces the need for expansion of their bread-and-butter business of transmission and distribution.

Shattuck and LeBel also point out that New York, often held out as a cost-effective alternative to Massachusetts, has eliminated its net metering cap. The two solar advocates say New York has reduced the cost of solar by curbing other solar incentives, and they say Massachusetts should do the same.

Gov. Charlie Baker and House Speaker Robert DeLeo want to deal with the impasse over solar before moving on to deal with an omnibus energy bill, but time is running out. The House unveils its budget later this month, a process that often leaves little room for other legislative action. Pressure is building on the solar net metering conference committee.

–BRUCE MOHL

 

BEACON HILL

George Overholser of Third World Capital Partners suggests an alternative pay-for-success initiative for the public sector. (CommonWealth)

Matt Stout chronicles an epic bit of foot-dragging and delay on the part of the Department of Children and Families in addressing a request for public records from a children’s advocacy organization. (Boston Herald)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Officials from development companies and their attorneys seeking a toehold in the booming makeover of downtown Quincy have donated more than $100,000 to the campaign accounts of Mayor Thomas Koch and a dozen current and former city councilors in the last two elections. (Patriot Ledger)

Boston Magazine profiles Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, and says he is no Tom Menino.

Lawrence is gearing up for an urban renewal effort, but this time it will be community-led and focus on restoring historic buildings instead of tearing them down. (Eagle-Tribune)

Worcester’s new professional hockey team will be called the Railers. (Telegram & Gazette)

More Asian longhorned beetles were found in the Worcester area, but officials are hopeful clear-cutting of trees won’t be necessary. (Telegram & Gazette)

Cambodians in Lowell protest the coming visit of Cambodia’s prime minister, Hun Sen, and the visit becomes a key issue in a state rep race between two Cambodian candidates. (The Sun)

A closed-door dispute between two Orleans selectmen has become public as one selectman accused another of benefitting from the proposed town purchase of a coastal property near his home. (Cape Cod Times)

Essex selectmen approve a mobile slaughterhouse to prepare local turkeys for market. (Gloucester Times)

CASINOS

Revenue was up at the Plainridge slots facility in January and February, but mostly because of giveaways to lure in players, reports the Globe.

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah pens an op-ed for National Review framing Congress as the victims in the fight over Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

Many of the governors with the highest approval ratings won election in states dominated by the opposite party. Gov. Charlie Baker fits that description, along with others. (Governing)

The leak of the so-called Panama Papers details offshore accounts with ties to world leaders, including Vladimir Putin. (Fortune)

ELECTIONS

GOP frontrunner Donald Trump called on Republican Party officials to force John Kasich to drop out of the presidential race, saying the Ohio governor is just losing and taking “my votes.” (New York Times)

A Lowell Sun editorial calls Sen. Elizabeth Warren Sen. Waffle for taking a stand in the Republican race for president but not in the Democratic campaign.

Former Boston city councilor John Connolly will endorse state Rep. Jay Livingstone today in the upcoming April 12 special election Democratic primary for state Senate. That means Connolly’s one-time chief of staff, Diana Hwang, one of seven Democrats in the race, is not getting the nod from her former boss. Then again, Hwang backed Marty Walsh over Connolly in the 2013 mayoral race. (Boston Globe)

Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler throws his support behind Plymouth Sheriff Joseph MacDonald’s reelection bid. (The Enterprise)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Jim Rooney, whose selection as new head of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce was panned by some as the continued reign of locally-bred, older white guys, is out to add some edge to the chamber’s profile by taking sharper stands on public issues and he wants to draw in millennials and minorities. (Boston Globe)

General Electric will announce more details about its headquarters move at an event this afternoon with Gov. Charlie Baker and Mayor Marty Walsh. Protests against the state and city tax and incentive package given to the company are planned outside the event, with activists who opposed the Boston 2024 Olympics proposal among those who are speaking out against the GE deal. (Politico)

The residential construction boom in downtown Boston continues, with plans filed to convert two former Suffolk University buildings into 75 condos. (Boston Herald)

EDUCATION

Urban League head Darnell Williams says race problems throughout the Boston Public Schools should be examined, not just at Boston Latin School. (Boston Herald)

A supervisor at Southbridge High School is fired for choking a student, but the school official says he was just breaking up a fight between two students. (Telegram & Gazette)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Backers of a single-payer health system say they are gathering momentum on Beacon Hill. (Salem News)

Brigham and Women’s Hospital is coming under scrutiny for breaking with various standard protocols in treating big-money VIP patients. (Boston Globe)

Nancy C. O’Rourke says Massachusetts should allow nurse practitioners to do more. (CommonWealth)

TRANSPORTATION

Michael Curry of the Boston NAACP and Jesse Mermell of the Alliance for Business Leadership say late-night MBTA service is crucial for economic growth and economic justice. (CommonWealth)

An Amtrak train traveling from New York to Florida derailed after hitting a backhoe on tracks outside of Philadelphia, killing two people and injuring dozens. (New York Times)

The cash-starved 40-year-old Metro subway system in Washington is in such bad shape that it may have to close down sections for months at a time to make repairs. (New York Times)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A Herald editorial praises the Obama administration for declining to declare an area off Cape Ann a national monument, a move that would have closed it to commercial fishing. (The paper calls it a “rare moment” when doing the right thing won out in the White House over pursuit of praise from environmentalists.)

A Whitman couple was killed when a tree fell in Abington during Sunday’s wind and snow storm, crushing the car they were driving. (Patriot Ledger)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Since 1985, Massachusetts appeals courts have reversed criminal convictions at least 120 times in part or entirely because of prosecutorial misconduct but no prosecutors have faced disbarment, according to a review of more than 1,000 cases by the New England Center for Investigative Reporting.

Homicides in the state reached a 10-year low in 2015. (Boston Globe)