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Massachusetts net metering bill delay may not be all bad

When the recently proposed bill to increase the net metering cap reached the table in Massachusetts, state officials did not reach a decision before the winter recess. Over the summer, the state Senate and House of Representatives both voted on a bill that would raise the cap on net metering in the Commonwealth. That same piece of legislation was put up to a second vote among both governmental groups, but the two branches were unable to see eye to eye on proposed alterations to the bill. The cabinets are not set to reconvene until the beginning of 2016, so the outcome will remain in limbo until that time at least. While some are concerned this could have a harmful outcome for the state's solar energy progress, it might also work to the industry's advantage.

Why did the bill get held up?
According to CommonWealth Magazine, when the legislation was first presented six months ago, the Senate was quick to vote in favor of lifting the cap. Unfortunately, members of the House did not cast their votes until mid-November. The House did vote in favor of the bill, but not before revising the increase to just 2 percent for both public and private projects, as reported by Utility Dive. The representatives also required changes that would reduce the payments for the companies and private owners contributing their excess solar energy to the grid. Greentech Media reported that the solar power community has been angling to keep the rates at retail levels to encourage more people and businesses to invest in new installations of solar panels.

When the Senate saw the House's changes to the bill, members decided to make even more changes to the House's proposal. CommonWealth reported that members of the Senate disagreed with the House's proposed 2 percent cap increase, pushing for a higher cap that would benefit solar providers and users. Neither group was willing to compromise with the other in time to vote again in 2015, leading to a stalemate that won't be resolved until the governmental bodies reconvene in January.

Net metering talks are on hold until the Massachusetts legislature reconvenes in 2016.Net metering talks are on hold until the Massachusetts legislature reconvenes in 2016.

What does this mean for the state?
With the net metering cap essentially stuck in limbo until the state government circles back to it, the effects could be detrimental to the state's efforts to remain a leading solar provider in the nation. Solar installers in Massachusetts may see a decline in new inquiries if there is less of an incentive to begin new residential and commercial solar projects, Greentech Media indicated. 

The Senate found that the House's revisions to the bill were a bit too extreme for the state to continue making progress toward green energy goals, according to CommonWealth Magazine. During the recess, representatives from both the House and Senate will hold informal sessions in an attempt to reach a solution that will benefit everyone and give residents and businesses the ability to sell more of their excess solar energy to the grid, Worcester Business Journal Online reported. Should a viable compromise come up in these meetings, it could result in a quick vote to get things moving once formal sessions resume, or possibly even earlier.

"It's a type of bill that is typically easier to do in a formal session than an informal," Senate President Stanley Rosenberg said, as quoted by the WB Journal. "That said, if they hit the magic note and it resonates with the people, then it could get on the governor's desk in an informal session."

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