Key takeaways


s renewable energy efforts ramp up across the United States, Massachusetts is carving out a niche as a hub of innovation and green initiatives with its recent overhaul of solar net metering. This bold move sets the state apart in a national context where others seem to be retreating from solar incentives. Let's unpack the new rules, understand their impact, and explore how the state is forging a unique route in the broader story of solar energy across the nation. For anyone mulling over "Is solar worth it in Massachusetts?", you're in the right place for answers that could tip the scales.

Net Metering in Massachusetts

Infographic: Net Metering in Massachusetts
How Net Metering Works

Central to this shift is the concept of net metering, an essential mechanism in the solar energy sector. Net metering acts like a virtual battery, allowing excess energy generated by a solar panels installation to be "stored" on the electric grid. Essentially, when your panels produce more energy than you need, that surplus is sent back to the grid, and you earn credits. On days when the sun is hiding, and your solar installation isn’t producing enough, you can draw energy from the grid and use your accumulated credits, paying only for the "net" amount of energy you consume over time.

The creation of net metering had two main goals: to encourage the widespread adoption of solar energy and to supply the electric grid with additional clean power, reducing the reliance on more expensive electricity sources during peak usage times.

In Massachusetts, investor-owned utilities must provide net metering. While the specifics can vary by location, the state's pro-solar stance means that most towns offer credits at rates very close to what you pay for grid electricity. For example, if your average cost of electricity per kwh is 22 cents, the credits you earn through net metering will be nearly the same.

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The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has rolled out some big updates to the state's net metering program. These changes are designed to widen the pool of customers who can benefit from solar energy. Now, municipal and state-owned properties can leverage net metering, which means solar credits can be shared more freely among different power companies. Additionally, big solar projects are no longer limited by net metering caps. Let's take a closer look at these fresh regulations.

Watch this video to know more about Net Metering in solar

Key Highlights of the Solar Update

1. Expanded Eligibility

The recent regulatory makeover by DPU gave the green light for more groups to get involved with solar energy. Now, not just homeowners but also other types of buildings and projects—like schools, government buildings, and big shopping centers— can set up solar panels and enjoy the perks. This inclusivity means about $10 million in savings every year for Massachusetts's electricity users, showing just how big a role solar energy can play in the state's push for cleaner power, efficient energy usage, and less reliance on traditional energy sources.

2. Cross-Utility Credit Transfers

Now, if your solar project makes more energy than you need, you can pass on those savings to someone else, even if they're with a different power company across the state. This flexibility ensures that the benefits of solar energy can be shared more broadly, helping more people save money and do their bit for the environment.

3. Cap Exemptions

Before, there was a limit on who could get the credits - solar systems used to get a pass only if they were 10 kW or smaller, which meant larger and more efficient solar panel projects were often left out. Now, the bar's raised to 25 kW. Plus, behind-the-meter systems that have a capacity over 60 kW but don't exceed 2 MW are now not subject to the net metering cap.

4. Cost Recovery Restructuring

To make the program more cost-effective and transparent for ratepayers, DPU has given the program’s pricing a makeover, specifically the part known as Net Metering Recovery Surcharge (NMRS). By adjusting this fee, they’re aiming to lower the costs associated with the program, making the bills easier to understand and the switch to solar more budget-friendly.

A Contrast to the National Scene

While Massachusetts strides forward, the situation across the rest of the country paints a quite different picture, with many facing setbacks and moving away from once-popular net metering policies. A national trend was set by California as the state has dramatically shifted the landscape with its introduction of Net Energy Metering 3.0 in April 2023. This change slashed the rewards solar panel owners receive for the excess power they generate by about 75%, leading to numerous businesses folding and a big drop in new solar panel installations on roofs. Additionally, The California Solar & Storage Association (CALSSA) reported a staggering loss of over 17,000 jobs. The impact was severe, pushing the state's solar industry into turmoil and knocking it off course from hitting its climate targets.

California's struggles are part of a larger trend where net metering, a key support for home solar power, is being phased out across the country. A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine highlights that, over the past decade, more than a dozen states have gradually phased out their net metering policies. This shift started picking up speed in the mid-2010s when different places across the U.S. began adopting new regulations or tariffs that moved away from the traditional net metering approach. These changes came about in various ways - through new laws, regulatory initiatives, or utilities pushing for new tariffs.

By now, almost every regulatory authority in the U.S. had looked into alternatives to the old net metering system. Throughout 2023, many states shifted towards net billing for distributed solar compensation. California launched its net billing plan, while official bodies in both Arkansas and Idaho switched from net metering to net billing. In addition, Hawaii's energy regulators approved updates to include net billing in their distributed energy resource tariffs.

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Lighting the Way Forward

In conclusion, Massachusetts stands out as a shining example in the complex tapestry of America's energy policy. While the trend in many states seems to be backing away from net metering, Massachusetts is charging ahead, making solar energy more inclusive and affordable. These changes could lead to big savings and a more just system for sharing energy. Against the backdrop of a nationwide pullback on solar incentives, Massachusetts's approach might just set off a new wave of interest and investment in solar from coast to coast. So, if you're asking yourself, "Are solar panels worth it in Massachusetts?" the revamped net metering regulations could be the game-changer you've been waiting for.


Key takeaways

  1. Massachusetts' Solar Innovation: Massachusetts is distinguishing itself as a leader in renewable energy by enhancing its solar net metering program. This move is in stark contrast to the national trend of scaling back solar incentives seen in many other states.
  2. Net Metering Basics: Net metering allows excess energy generated by solar panels to be sent back to the grid, with users earning credits. This mechanism encourages widespread adoption of solar energy and contributes to a cleaner power supply.
  3. Recent Regulatory Changes: The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has introduced significant updates to the state's net metering program. These changes aim to widen participation, increase flexibility, and improve cost-effectiveness.
  4. Key Highlights of the Updates:
    • Expanded eligibility to include various types of buildings and projects, leading to an estimated $10 million in annual savings for ratepayers.
    • Introduction of cross-utility credit transfers, allowing surplus energy to be shared across different power companies.
    • Higher capacity limits for solar systems eligible for credits, promoting larger and more efficient solar panel projects.
    • Restructuring of cost recovery mechanisms to make the program more transparent and budget-friendly for ratepayers.
  5. Contrast with National Trends: While Massachusetts is expanding its solar net metering program, many other states are phasing out or scaling back similar policies. California's recent shift to Net Energy Metering 3.0 resulted in significant challenges for the solar industry, with job losses and decreased installations.
  6. Massachusetts as a Beacon of Progress: Massachusetts' proactive approach to solar incentives could inspire renewed interest and investment in solar energy across the country. Amidst nationwide cutbacks, Massachusetts is paving the way for a more inclusive, affordable, and sustainable energy future.
  7. Impact on Solar Adoption: The revamped net metering regulations in Massachusetts could significantly impact the adoption of solar energy, making it more attractive and accessible to a broader range of consumers. These changes have the potential to drive savings and promote a fairer system for sharing energy resources.
Mar 25, 2024
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