Massachusetts House and Senate lawmakers continue to remain paralyzed over the state’s net metering policy, which hit its cap one year ago. The Senate voted on the policy last July, and their version increases the cap on net metering to 1,600 megawatts (MW), approximately doubling the current 4% of peak electricity cap on private projects.
“The utility companies and other special interests have stood in the way of solar power for too long,” said Emily Norton, Chapter Director for the Massachusetts Sierra Club. “It’s time for state leaders to do what’s right for our climate and our economy by eliminating the caps on solar power, and ensuring a fair reimbursement rate for solar power.”
Indeed, utility companies National Grid and Eversource Energy have been successful at lobbying House lawmakers to prevent pro-solar policies from moving forward in the State House.
The Massachusetts House passed a bill in November that increases the cap but reduces the net metering credits homeowners with solar panels receive by 75%. Furthermore, the House bill raises the cap by only 2 percent, which the solar industry says is not enough to clear the existing backlog of projects.
The Senate version helps the state reach the 1,600 MW of solar by 2020 goal set by former Democrat Governor Deval Patrick and endorsed by the current Republican Governor Charlie Baker.
“The utilities, Eversource and National Grid, have an army of lobbyists and a high-paid CEO who are camping out at the State House doing everything they can not to compromise or influence this legislation but to kill it and to kill, therein, solar competition,” said Sean Garren, Northeast regional manager at Vote Solar.
But joining the utility industry is an organization named the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM). AIM has stepped up its lobbying efforts targeting the pro-solar policies in the state. Their lobbying efforts coincide with public advertisements such as this one that was recently in The Boston Globe.
The $8 billion figure in the advertisement above prompted a response from George Bachrach, President of the Environmental League of Massachusetts Action Fund. Bachrach writes in a letter to AIM:
We both know this number is wrong, off by a factor of two-fold. Since this is the critical fact for state legislators, hiding behind misleading ads only deceives them, the public and your members. If you believe you are correct, we challenge you again to document your facts and engage in a public debate.”
AIM is chaired by Daniel Kenary, the CEO and co-founder of Harpoon Brewery, which prides itself on its environmental efforts and “making environmentally sound decisions” according to the brewery’s website. “We have an obligation to our community – today and in the future – to do what we can to make our breweries in Boston, MA and Windsor, VT more sustainable and earth friendly.” Harpoon Brewery has even been the recipient of the Boston Green Business Award. In other words, the CEO of a microbrewery focused on making decisions with the environment and future generations in mind is joining the big utility companies in the opposition to solar progress in one of America’s biggest solar states.
Kenary was recently called out on Twitter over his anti-solar position. He tweeted, “I strongly support solar as does Harpoon. We think it can b done in ways that work 4 MA businesses/residents. #loveyourpassion.”
— dan_kenary (@dan_kenary) March 16, 2016
While Kenary says he supports solar, many disagree as the solar industry has basically come to a standstill in the state thanks to Kenary, AIM, and the utility companies lobbying to restrict the market for solar in Massachusetts.