Net metering cap slows solar installation for Central Mass. utility
By almost all metrics, solar power has established a foothold in Massachusetts as both a resource and an economic driver.
In 2014, Massachusetts ranked fourth in the United States in solar electricity capacity installed in terms of megawatts, outpacing larger states like New Mexico, Texas and New York, as well as sunnier ones like Hawaii and Arizona, according to a report by the Frontier Group and Environment America Research & Policy Center.
The industry hasn’t just grown in volume, but in dollars as well. Last year, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Industry Report revealed that the state’s solar energy industry employs nearly 12,000 people working on the back of what the Solar Energy Industries Association says is $791 million invested in solar installations in the state in 2014 alone.
As investment and prevalence of solar power spreads across the state, installation prices have dropped, in some cases by as much as 53 percent since 2010, according to the SEIA.
Instead of celebrating these spiking graphs, state government has been debating what to do next, earning itself two bill filings, a 525-page task force report and no clear resolutions to show for its hand-wringing.
At the crux of the issue is net metering, a program that compensates solar panel owners for the excess electricity they generate which goes back into the grid.
While net metering reimbursements have helped the solar industry grow, half-a-decade ago when it was unclear how a burgeoning solar industry would impact the state’s electric grid, lawmakers decided to put a cap on the net-metering program.