Environment MA: Diverse coalition rallies to lift solar energy caps

Edith Shi | Jul 30, 2015
Boston — One week after the Massachusetts Senate voted unanimously to lift the cap on the state’s most important solar program, a coalition of labor, business, low-income, and environmental organizations rallied at the State House urging state leaders to finish the job.

“It’s the middle of the summer and we should be doing everything we can to soak up the rays of the sun,” said Ben Hellerstein, State Director for Environment Massachusetts. “Instead, arbitrary caps on solar power are keeping us in the dark. State officials should help communities take advantage of all of the environmental and economic benefits that solar brings.”

Today’s event was the final stop on the “Soak Up the Sun!” Solar Tour, organized by Environment Massachusetts. Between July 20 and July 30, solar supporters in 10 communities, from Pittsfield to Barnstable, gathered in support of raising limits on solar power.

In March, a cap on a key solar program known as net metering was hit for more than 170 Massachusetts communities. Net metering allows solar panel owners to receive full compensation for the electricity they provide to the grid. As a result of the cap, many businesses, local governments, and nonprofits hoping to install solar panels are no longer able to do so.

Speakers at the event said that some workers in the solar industry have already lost their jobs as a result of the net metering cap, and solar businesses have been forced to rethink their plans to expand in Massachusetts.

Utility companies and the Baker administration have opposed an immediate increase in the net metering caps. House leaders have not yet indicated if or when they will schedule a vote on the issue.

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Employment in Massachusetts’ clean energy industry is rising. In 2014, the solar industry supported more than 12,000 jobs statewide, according to a report from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.

Last year, Massachusetts was fourth in the nation for the amount of solar energy installed, with enough solar added to the grid to power 50,000 homes with clean energy.

"Massachusetts' solar industry is thriving thanks to smart state policies. These policies have created a foundation that has attracted billions of dollars of private investment in our new energy infrastructure and created 12,000 jobs in the Commonwealth. However, the net metering caps are threatening to hold us back," said Zaid Ashai, Chairman and CEO of Nexamp, a Boston-based solar company. "With support from state leaders, solar can continue to thrive, with major benefits for our state's economy."

View the full press release at Environment Massachusetts' website.

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