Sen. Eric Lesser Votes with Senate to Pass Bill Raising Cap on Solar Projects

Sen. Eric P. Lesser today voted with the Senate to pass a bill that raises the limit on the amount of solar energy public and private customers can sell back to energy grids, known as the net metering cap. “Until now, failure to lift the net metering cap was forcing the delay of hundreds of projects that help businesses, local governments and households reduce their energy bills and promote clean energy. Lifting the cap allows these projects to move forward.”

Net metering is a practice in which utility customers with solar panels can sell power back to their local power grid, and is one of the incentives the Commonwealth offers to encourage clean energy production.

Specifically, the bill lifts the net metering cap by 3 percent for both public and private solar projects. It also allows all existing solar projects, along with projects for schools and municipalities, to receive the highest reimbursement rate allowed by current law. The Commonwealth has set a goal of producing 1600 megawatts of solar power, enough electricity to power almost 250,000 homes annually, by the year 2020.

In February, Sen. Lesser published an op-ed on the importance of promoting solar power, especially in Western Massachusetts, which has the state's highest density of clean energy employment.

In the op-ed, Sen. Lesser noted that the solar industry's rapid growth is helping many local governments save taxpayer money. For example, solar power will save East Longmeadow $125,000 on annual utility bills. Savings generated by Ludlow's solar field are estimated at $100,000 to $140,000 per year.

In addition, community leaders in Hampden are also aiming to develop a town landfill into a solar field, a project that can now move forward due to the bill’s raising of the cap.

“For generations, the Pioneer Valley has been at the cutting edge of industrial change. Just as Springfield led the way in the 20th Century with the first gas-powered automobile, in the 21st Century we can lead the way as a center for clean technology and all the savings that come with it,” Sen. Lesser wrote.

The bill passed the House earlier this week and now heads to Gov. Baker’s desk for his signature into law.