100 REPS, MAYORS URGE NEGOTIATORS TO ADOPT RETAIL SOLAR RATES
By Michael P. Norton
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, MARCH 15, 2016…..Hoping to dislodge a solar energy bill that’s been stuck in House-Senate talks for four months, 100 House lawmakers have written a letter to their own negotiators urging them to raise net metering caps and resist cuts in metering credit values that they say could cause irreparable harm to an industry the state is trying to grow.
“We hope you can advance a bill to a floor vote at the earliest opportunity, in order to restore investments in our communities and allow businesses to rehire workers who lost their jobs as a result of the net metering caps,” representatives wrote in a letter organized by Reps. Cory Atkins of Concord and James O’Day of West Boylston.
The letter was addressed to Reps. Brian Dempsey of Haverhill, Thomas Golden of Lowell and Brad Jones of North Reading, who were charged in November with working out a compromise solar energy bill with the Senate. The conference committee has been unable to find common ground on H 3854 and S 2058.
Energy has been a constant topic of policy talk on Beacon Hill this year. With Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth scheduled to close by 2019 and the state moving away from coal-fired plants, lawmakers are weighing their embrace of renewable energy sources with concerns over energy prices and reliability, and worries over the impacts of proposed pipelines and a possible over-dependence on natural gas.
The formal legislative session is scheduled to end for the year on July 31 and, despite scant signs of progress to date, Gov. Charlie Baker and legislative leaders hope to have a major new energy law on the books by summer.
“We support your desire to reduce costs,” the lawmakers wrote to House conferees. “However, it is important to note that net metering credits are not subsidies, but rather compensation for the value provided by solar generation exported to the grid.”
The letter, signed by Democrats and Republicans, lays out policy recommendations and warns against compensating solar projects at wholesale rates.
“Since November, we have been contacted by many constituents concerned that reducing the retail net metering credit rate will do irreparable harm to many solar projects in the state,” Atkins said in a statement. “We know that House leaders care deeply about this issue. We thought they’d want to hear our concerns.”
Critics of the state’s solar policies say the costs of building solar projects have come down substantially. They are urging lawmakers to resist locking in on “subsidies” that they say will saddle ratepayers for years, driving up already high energy costs and making it more difficult for wind energy and hydropower to take root in Massachusetts.
In a separate letter on Monday, Newton Mayor Setti Warren and nearly three dozen of his counterparts urged negotiators not to adopt the lower wholesale rate for net metering credits, saying it would discourage municipalities from embarking on solar projects in the future and create a “pernicious double standard” with power sold by utilities and valued at retail rates.
“We ask the committee to produce a final bill that allows communities to continue to host solar facilities on municipal property and to continue to make forward progress towards a clean energy future,” the mayors and towns managers wrote.
The letter was signed by the mayors of Agawam, Attleboro, Brockton, Cambridge, Easthampton, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Gardner, Gloucester, Greenfield, Lowell, Lynn, Malden, Medford, Melrose, Methuen, North Adams, Northampton, Peabody, Revere, Salem, Springfield, Westfield, Weymouth, Woburn and Worcester.