Net metering is becoming a hot topic in communities across the U.S., as tools like solar panels, shingles and storage systems become more prominent.
There are now more than 20,000 MW of cumulative solar electric capacity operating in America. That’s enough to power more than 4 million homes.
The increasing popularity of solar power in Massachusetts is prompting environmental groups to call for lifting net metering caps. And now some legislators are even jumping on board.
Net Metering: allows homeowners, businesses and local governments to sell excess solar power they generate back to the grid in exchange for credit on their utility bills.
A state senator has filed a bill to raise the net metering cap, allow an exemption for any project of 1MW or less and create a tax exemption for “community solar” projects. This would allow multifamily builders that aren’t able to install rooftop solar panels to create offsite arrays.
It would also set a solar energy goal of 9,500 MW – or about 20 percent of the state’s energy usage – by 2025. But utility company National Grid and Governor Charlie Baker are skeptical. They’re in favor of solar programs but not of changing the net metering cap.
As it stands now, renewable energy advocates say 171 communities across the state have already reached the net metering cap.
They say that’s slowing the state’s efforts to reach its solar energy goals. While individual homeowners are exempt from the cap, larger building projects and developments are suffering, according to Ben Hellerstein, state director of the advocacy group Environment Massachusetts.
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For example, a local town manager is worried the cap will jeopardize a large solar array planned for a former landfill. He says if the state doesn’t raise the cap, the project developer could be forced to pull out.
Not only would that be detrimental to the developer, but it would also cost the town of Norton, Mass. an estimated $300,000 a year.