August 1, 2014 – An Update Regarding “the Solar Bill”
This is a report from PV Squared Board President Bill Stillinger on our current activities with the Solar Energy Business Association of New England (SEBANE) and with the Massachusetts legislature.
The current legislative session in Boston ended last night. The Massachusetts solar bill H.4185 with our amendments failed yesterday while it was stalled in the House Ways and Means (HW&M) committee; reportedly because of strong objections raised by Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) and NSTAR, a Northeast Utilities electric distribution company operating in Boston and eastern MA. So although National Grid and several other parties had agreed on the SEBANE amendments to H.4185, general consensus couldn’t be achieved among the principal parties here.
With PV Squared’s approval (and the unanimous approval of the SEBANE board), SEBANE board chair Tom Thompson quickly sent a “what should we do now” letter yesterday morning to HW&M Chairman Brian Dempsey. The letter sought to have the legislators at least lift the current statewide limits on solar installations and continue with current state incentive programs, in order to put Governor Patrick’s policy goal to achieve 1600 MW of solar in the state by 2020 into law.
But even that proposal didn’t survive. The new bill that emerged from the House last night, known briefly as HB 4385, simply raised the limits on installations by 1 percent for private installations and 2 percent for municipal installations. Just before 1 am this morning, the Senate enacted the bill raising the caps and completing the legislative process. The bill now goes to the Governor who has ten days to sign it.
In effect this amounted to “kicking the can down the road”, but only for a short distance. Thankfully it authorizes a working group to responsibly address the longer term issues facing the emergence of a mainstream solar energy industry with wide public participation, and SEBANE will likely be an integral part of that group.
So what we are left with today has bright and dark elements. The new law will no doubt prompt a vigorous round of public debate about the long-term prospects for solar energy in Massachusetts. We are concerned over the intransigence of utility companies who apparently view solar energy as a business threat, rather than part of an important solution to our current fragile energy dependence on carbon-rich fuels and stable global politics.
What’s most important to us at PV Squared is the health of our business, our customers, our employees, and to preserve the ability of the communities we serve to install solar projects to sustain the health of our shared environment. That is what shapes our approach to the players and the politics surrounding the widespread acceptance of the clean energy industry.
Bill Stillinger, PV Squared board president