Massachusetts Votes For Higher Renewable Standard, Solar Industry Continues To Push Back


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Jason Hopkins Immigration and politics reporter
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Solar lobbyists were happy to see Massachusetts lawmakers vote for higher renewable standards, but they still attacked the legislation for not including more subsidies.

Legislators in the Massachusetts state capitol were able to reach a deal on the future of the state’s renewable portfolio standard, with both chambers agreeing to a uniform bill on Tuesday night.

State senators and representatives passed H.4857, a bill that would raise Massachusetts’ renewable energy target by 2 percent every year from 2020 though 2029, where the annual increase would then drop to one percent. The incremental targets would eventually lead The Bay State to a 40 percent renewable standard by 2030 and a 100 percent standard by 2090.

The bill awaits Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s signature.

The vote in Massachusetts follows a growing trend — particularly among blue states — to mandate more wind and solar power. State capitols, regulators and utility companies across the country have taken steps to gradually increase their renewable energy usage. Environmentalists donors, like billionaire Tom Steyer, have bankrolled campaign efforts to further this trend. Such calls are also growing on the federal level. Democratic socialist candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez believes its feasible for renewable technology to power the entire United States by 2035, but has not explained in detail how such a transition is possible.

Massachusetts stands unique in that in has established a pathway to 100 percent renewables — many green energy advocates are hoping other states follow suit.

Sean Gallagher, vice president of state affairs for the Solar Energies Industry Association, implored the Massachusetts governor to sign the bill. His support for the legislation makes sense — a government mandate could only help his members. Not only does it call on utilities to use more solar and wind, the bill also mandates that a minimum amount of clean energy be used during high-demand hours and rescinds a utility fee on residential solar customers.

However, the comprehensive package was not wholeheartedly embraced by big solar.

“[T]he bill failed to raise the net metering caps, a move that means some Bay State businesses and communities who want to go solar are unable to do so. Across the state, solar projects, jobs and millions of dollars of investment remain stalled,” lamented Gallagher.

Solar companies were lobbying Massachusetts lawmakers to raise caps on net metering — a process where utility companies credit solar panels owners for the power they produce and send back to the grid.

Crediting solar panel owner for a higher rate than their power is worth ultimately raises electricity rates on non-solar customers, making the process controversial. Regulators established the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target, or SMART, which reduces incentives the more solar owners are compensated. The current system is meant to protect non-solar customers from higher costs while still promoting solar technology.

Solar companies, unsurprisingly, want credits raised so more residents are inclined to purchase the expensive modules.

While the legislation isn’t a total win for solar lobbyists, enough policies were included to win over their support.

“Nevertheless, the bill overturns a wayward ruling that would have hurt consumers and raises the state’s renewable energy goals, which is why the Governor should sign this bill,” Gallagher concluded in his official statement.

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