Solar panels in Massachusetts, USA. Author: liz west. License: Creative Commons.
Massachusetts lawmakers on Tuesday passed a compromise clean energy bill that is less ambitious than the bill the state Senate passed in June.
The legislation, which has now cleared the House and Senate and is going to the governor's desk, "falls far short" of the Senate's version, environmental organisation the Sierra Club said. In particular, it raises the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) annual increase to 2% from the current 1%, starting in 2020 and going through 2029, when it falls back to 1%, while the Senate boosted the RPS rate of increase to 3% a year. The compromise bill also allows the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) to conduct procurements of up to 1,600 MW of additional offshore wind capacity by 2035. The Senate legislation provided for the procurement of up to 5,000 MW of offshore wind by that time.
"With this bill the Massachusetts legislature took baby steps on clean energy legislation when what is needed are giant strides," said Emily Norton, Sierra Club Massachusetts Chapter Director.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) noted that the bill requires the state's largest electricity utility, Eversource, to refile its plan to charge extra fees to solar adopters and increases the state's renewable energy goal. It added, however, that the bill failed to raise the caps on net metering for non-residential customers, which have been hit in three utilities' service territories.
"Across the state, solar projects, jobs and millions of dollars of investment remain stalled. 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," commented Sean Gallagher, SEIA's vice president of state affairs.
The Senate bill eliminated the caps on net metering.
In a sign of somewhat mixed reaction, the Northeast Clean Energy Council (NECEC) commended the passage of the bill, saying it will advance energy efficiency, large-scale renewables and energy storage. It called on the governor to sign the legislation into law and said it wants to work with lawmakers to resolve issues such as net metering, not included in the bill.
"However, while it helpfully clarifies the structure for new charges for solar customers, there remains uncertainty in the Commonwealth’s solar market due to caps on net metering that have been hit," said NECEC executive vice president Janet Gail Besser. "Overall this legislation is a positive step forward and will spark more growth in the clean energy economy Massachusetts has built over the last decade," she added.
The compromise bill sets an energy storage target of 1,000 MWh by 2025.