by Glenn Kingsbury
The solar industry in Massachusetts, a bright source for the commonwealth’s economy for the past several years, is at risk of a dramatic downturn. The House and Senate are currently deadlocked on a bill that would raise the solar net metering cap and ensure that the solar industry remains a vibrant source of jobs and revenue for the industry and the state.
Amidst increasing solar industry support to raise the Massachusetts solar net metering cap, which has numerous projects stalled and thousands of jobs on hold, the House, Senate, and Governor Baker’s administration have filed separate pieces of legislation that would lift the state’s current cap.
The National Electrical Contractor’s Association’s (NECA’s) message to our legislators is clear: Massachusetts lawmakers must resolve the issue without delay. A viable solution to raise the solar net metering cap must be reached early in 2016. Major solar projects throughout the state, representing more than 12,000 electrical and solar industry jobs, are at stake. In fact, every day the legislature fails to raise the net metering cap, $3 million in private investment in Massachusetts’ solar industry and economy is on hold, as well as $1 million in federal solar investment credits. Currently, more than 48 megawatts of planned solar projects in National Grid’s territory in the state have been delayed because of the negative impact the solar cap has on responsible solar developers. The impasse in solar legislation is a major obstacle to solar development throughout the commonwealth.
Adding to the critical urgency of raising Massachusetts’ net metering cap is the fact that the federal Solar Investment Tax Credit program is scheduled to expire on December 31, 2016. This 30% federal tax credit on commercial and residential solar properties has helped solar installations grow by over 1,600% since it was implemented in 2006. Beginning in 2017, the commercial solar tax credit will drop to 10% and the residential credit will drop to zero, unless Congress extends the deadline or changes the “placed in service” aspect of the law to a “commence construction” provision.
Massachusetts’ solar industry currently ranks sixth in the nation with 876 MW of solar installed, with a goal of reaching 1,600 MW by 2020. It has achieved its leadership in solar power without the solar net metering cap in place. The state must act responsibly, and with immediacy – raising the cap, so that the industry can remain a bright source for the Massachusetts economy and the electrical industry for years to come.
Glenn Kingsbury is executive manager for NECA Boston Chapter.