16 Nov

Going Solar in Massachusetts Through Net Metering and Virtual Net Metering

Net metering allows Massachusetts businesses to generate their own electricity at their location to offset their electricity usage. Net metering can lower a customer’s electric bill by reducing the amount of electricity the customer buys from the utility company and allows customers to receive credits for any electricity that they generate but do not use.

Net metering has been available to customers going solar in Massachusetts since the 1980s. In 2008, new legislation increased the allowable size of solar and other renewable energy facilities from 60 kW to 2 MW. The legislation also increased the value of the credits for electricity generated by these facilities from the wholesale rate to nearly the retail rate and allowed net metering customers to allocate net metering credits. Additional legislation was passed in 2010 and 2012 which further modified net metering in Massachusetts, most notably raising the overall amount of allowable net metering projects.

Virtual net metering enables residents and businesses going solar in Massachusetts to buy electricity generated by a solar array that is not located at the same site as the electricity meter. The ability to purchase solar-produced electricity off-site is important to those who want to go solar but may have limitations with their property such as sub-standard roof conditions, improper roof angles and orientation or shading issues. Other businesses going solar in Massachusetts, particularly high-energy users, may not have a large enough site to offset a large portion of their energy consumption. These customers are motivated by the economic benefits of solar including the lower cost of energy and the ability to hedge against price volatility such as the 37% rate hike recently announced by National Grid.

Why is virtual net metering so important to businesses going solar in Massachusetts? If virtual net metering is disallowed under new rules, then that change in policy will effectively remove these customers from the pool of potential solar energy users thereby limiting the size of the market. As it stands now, if no changes to the law happen, then virtual net metering will be limited to those who own both the site where the solar electricity is produced as well as the site where the electricity will be consumed. This will have the same outcome of limiting the size of the market by providing the option of virtual net metering only to those who own multiple sites.

In September the Massachusetts State Legislature amended the net metering law and established a committee to embark on a comprehensive review of the legislation and report back with recommended changes to the law. Recommendations devised through this review process could lift the net metering caps completely, which would open the overall capacity of the market. Moreover, this process will enable policy makers to reconsider the inadvertent market impacts of policy related to virtual net metering which limits market potential. An uncapped virtual net metering law would greatly increase possibilities for businesses going solar in Massachusetts and would help revolutionize the Massachusetts solar market.

Want to Learn More?

Read an earlier blog we published about Solar Net Metering and National Grid in Massachusetts.

Kurt Easton

Kurt Easton

As a Managing Partner of Clean Footprint and professional Urban Planner with over 25 years of consulting experience, Kurt has an extensive background in both public and private sector initiatives. His experience provides valuable insight into public/private negotiations for renewable energy development. His network of municipal contacts through the Florida Redevelopment Association and Florida League of Cities enables direct access to decision makers for the successful development of solar PV projects throughout the State.Contact Kurt at kurt.easton@clean-footprint.com.