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Massachusetts Net Metering

Discover the importance of net metering in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

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Net Metering in Massachusetts

The states across the country that have been most successful in making the transition towards renewable solar energy technologies all have one thing in common, and it is not what many people think. The assumption that states like Arizona and California, which receive large amounts of year-round sunshine, have the most advanced solar power systems isn’t necessarily true. The reality is that progressive net metering laws are widely considered to be a necessary piece of legislation to help advance the adoption of renewable solar energy.

In this short article, learn why net metering laws and policies are important for people in Massachusetts and how net metering currently works, including the existing legislation and policies that guide net metering in the Bay State. These policies bring various benefits to solar customers in Massachusetts, with a special emphasis on people who participate in the growing market for Community Solar programs.

wind turbines in water against sunset

Renewable Energy Challenges

While transitioning to renewable energy is an important part of helping curb the negative effects of global climate change, there are also certain challenges that come with these new technologies. The wind doesn’t blow 24 hours a day and the sun obviously does not shine at night. To take advantage of solar or wind technologies when it is dark and when the wind is not blowing, individual homeowners would need to invest in expensive battery storage systems which might double the cost of a residential solar photovoltaic (PV) system. Furthermore, these battery systems often have an expected lifespan of between 5 and 15 years, meaning that homeowners would likely have to replace their battery storage systems once, or even twice, during the lifespan of the panels.

Why is Net Metering Important?

This is where net metering comes in. Net Metering or net energy metering (NEM) is solar incentive that allows excess energy produced by both commercial and residential solar panels to be stored in the grid. If your solar panels produce more electricity than is need, that energy is sent to the local grid in exchange for energy credits. Net metering policies allow communities, homeowners, and companies who produce solar energy to receive credits from the utility company for the excess energy they produce. For example, during the sunny daylight hours, solar panels will most likely produce much more energy than is actually used. Net metering policies will allow electric meters to run backwards, thus providing a credit against the electricity that is subsequently pulled from the grid during the night.

Virtual net metering is an extension of regular net metering and has been extremely important in helping to grow the Community Solar industry. With virtual net metering, solar panels on a host property (the solar farm or solar garden) convert the sun’s energy into electricity. The amount of energy produced is sent to the utility company who then calculates net metering credits for the people who have subscribed into the Community Solar program.

Both net metering and virtual net metering are important and essential policies to help residents of Massachusetts and across the country access and enjoy the benefits of renewable solar energy.

How Does Net Metering Work in the State of Massachusetts?

The state of Massachusetts has one of the most advanced net metering policies in the United States that allows homeowners and property owners to send the electricity generated by a solar PV system onto the grid and subsequently receive credits on future electric bills for any excess energy that was produced by the system. Some states only have net metering policies that are directed to residential rooftop systems, thus limiting the benefits of net metering to homeowners who have roofs that are optimum placed, oriented, and built for solar panel installation.

According to the Massachusetts Net Metering Guide, however,

“the state of Massachusetts does not differentiate between behind-the-meter net metering (electricity generation consumed on the same site it is generated) versus virtual net metering (electricity generation consumed at a site other than where the electricity is generated). For most purposes, including credit calculation, there is no difference between net metering and virtual net metering.”

This is one of the reasons why Massachusetts is among the top four US states with the largest amount of installed Community Solar capacity as of mid-2017. Companies such as Clearway Community Solar will only continue to grow the total installed capacity of Community Solar across the state as the result of this advantageous net metering law.

Important Legislation and Policies around Massachusetts Net Metering

There are a number of important pieces of statewide legislation that regulate the net metering policies. The state net metering law demands that regulated electric companies offer net metering policies. Thus, three of the largest utility companies, Eversource, National Grid, and Unitil, are obligated by state law to offer net metering policies to their customers. Other smaller utility companies across the state also have voluntary net metering policies that they offer to their customers. However, with all utility companies, you will still be required to pay fixed customer service charges and other applicable demand charges that the utility company includes on their bill.

Another great piece of Massachusetts legislation that affects net metering policies is the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program. This solar incentive program offers solar customers (both people participating in Community Solar programs and individual homeowners) a fixed rate per kWh of solar production. This fixed amount makes it easier for Community Solar programs to correctly calculate their costs and stabilizes the market through reducing price volatility. More stability should only increase the incentive for further adoption of Community Solar programs which bring solar energy to a wider sector of the population.

Community Solar programs offered by Clearway Community Solar allow Massachusetts residents to reduce their overall electricity costs from day one without having to assume the expensive upfront cost of residential solar panel systems. With a variety of Massachusetts Community Solar farms to choose from, residents have more options for renewable energy while reducing energy costs.

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