Managing Editor, Print- Boston Business Journal
There’s a battle brewing on Beacon Hill over the future of solar energy in the state.
On one side, you have environmentalists, solar-panel installers and developers.
On the other, there are the state’s biggest electric utilities — namely National Grid and NStar.
And you, the hard-working electric ratepayer? Well, you’re stuck somewhere in the middle.
Despite the chilly winters and rainy summers around here, Massachusetts has quickly vaulted to the top states for solar energy in only a few years — with more installed solar capacity here than in more than 40 other states. The main reason for this? The state offers two programs that essentially act as subsidies. One involves the creation of special solar certificates that developers can sell to utilities to help them reach state-established renewable energy goals. That program’s turmoil seems all but resolved, as the Patrick administration is expected to unveil a final update to the regulations within the next few weeks.
The debate in the State House is turning to the second program that has helped spur solar energy throughout the state — net metering. This allows installers of solar panels — all renewable energy projects, really, but solar is the predominant type — to gain credits by “selling” excess power onto the grid. The Legislature has capped the use of net metering to no more than 3 percent of an electric utility’s power usage, with parallel limits established for public-sector solar and privately owned projects. National Grid’s cap for public-sector users has already been hit, and the others are close to being reached.