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Posted on November 19, 2015
Beacon Hill lawmakers ended formal sessions for 2015 without an agreement on solar-energy subsidies after AIM and other business organizations warned that expanding such payments would pump billions of dollars into the pockets of solar energy developers.
A House-Senate conference committee was appointed yesterday to resolve differences between two distinct approaches – a House bill passed Tuesday that would lift the cap on the amount of public and privately generated solar power that could be sold back to the grid at retail rates by 2 percent; and a Senate version more generous to the solar industry.
Conferees quickly acknowledged, however, that additional discussions will be needed when the Legislature begins the final year of its session in January.
John Regan, Executive Vice President of Government Affairs for AIM, commended lawmakers for taking the time to find a balanced solution to a complex problem.
“It’s important for Massachusetts to get this issue right, so we support the deliberate approach being taken by the Legislature. AIM supports the development of solar energy, but not in the form of a government-sanctioned giveaway that will harm the 99 percent of ratepayers who do not have solar,” Regan said.
AIM and six other business organizations sent a letter to the conference committee late yesterday opposing the Senate version of the solar boll passed earlier in the day. The groups outlined several objections to the Senate bill:
Net metering allows solar panel owners to be reimbursed for the electricity they send back onto the grid. The Legislature caps the amount of net metering credits allowed in a particular utility’s system.
Senator Benjamin Downing, chair of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, said the House bill went “too far on the cost side” to lower reimbursement rates after the state hits its target of 1,600 megawatts of installed solar capacity, while House Ways and Means Chair Brian Dempsey said controlling cost for ratepayers who do not use solar is a prime concern to the House.
Downing and Dempsey are both part of the conference committee, along with Representatives Thomas Golden and Brad Jones, and Senators Bruce Tarr and Marc Pacheco.
The last-minute flurry of solar activity came on the same day that Attorney General Maura Healey issued a report on natural-gas pipeline capacity that looked at system reliability and greenhouse gas emission rather than costs.
“Associated Industries of Massachusetts and its 4,500 members remain concerned above all with the unbearably high cost of electricity in the commonwealth. The attorney general’s study deals primarily with electric reliability rather than with persistently high electric rates and also does not address the lack of natural gas availability in certain parts of the state for heat and process needs. Both of these issues erode the ability of employers to expand and create jobs,” the association said in a statement.