Senator Lesser Votes to Expand Solar Power

Senator Eric P. Lesser (D-Longmeadow) voted Thursday in favor of a climate change preparedness bill that included a measure to further incentivize the expansion of solar electricity in Massachusetts. “This common-sense measure will allow people to use more clean energy in their homes and incentivize the use of solar power,” Lesser said. “It’s an important step in our efforts to expand sustainable energy sources and ensure Massachusetts stays on the leading edge of climate change policy.”

The amendment, introduced by Senator Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield) and attached to a broader climate change preparedness bill authored by Senator Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton), would lift the cap to 1,600 megawatts of solar power, consistent with the goal set by former Governor Deval Patrick to develop 1,600 megawatts of solar power by 2020. Governor Charlie Baker is in support of the state’s goal as well.

The measure received bipartisan support and the endorsement of Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), calling it a "prudent course of action," during the Senate debate.

Net metering, which allows utility customers with solar panels to sell power back to the grid at retail rates, is one of the incentives offered to encourage clean energy production. The current caps limit solar development to 4 percent of peak electricity load for private projects and 5 percent for public projects, with no limit on residential projects.

Starting with only a couple of megawatts of solar production in 2007, solar energy in Massachusetts now totals roughly 860 megawatts.

The climate change preparedness bill will now move to the House for consideration and debate.