Community Solar Coalition Responds to Proposed Changes to Massachusetts Solar Program

September 5th, 2019

Lenox, MA – Today, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) unveiled significant changes to the state’s solar energy policy that, if approved, will curtail development of community solar, which to date has been one of the Commonwealth’s brightest success stories of job creation, local economic development, and consumer energy bill savings. Community solar refers to local solar projects built at scale to reduce emissions and provide clean energy access to any customer, including low-income residents, with an electricity bill.

The Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA) raised important concerns about the DOER’s land use proposals and the small size of the solar program expansion in the draft. In particular, community solar providers are concerned that they would be effectively ending the most widely accessible part of the Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target (SMART) program. SMART was created by DOER in late 2018 to build on the success of prior programs to expand access to clean energy throughout the Commonwealth.

“As the Commonwealth strives to meet its ambitious climate change goals, the proposal laid out today makes meeting that challenge more difficult,” said Jeff Cramer, executive director for CCSA. “At the same time, we are concerned that DOER’s proposed changes will make solar more expensive in the state and effectively eliminate a critically important tool for more equitable solar access.”

With 3-out-of-4 Massachusetts households not suitable for rooftop solar, community solar is critical to expanding access to solar energy regardless of housing type or income level. Community solar is an essential component of the “all-of-the-above strategy” needed to achieve Massachusetts’ renewable portfolio standard target of 35% by 2030 and to be on track towards the 80% greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets by 2050.

CCSA recommends that DOER consider the following changes to help the SMART program serve more customers while ensuring appropriate solar farm siting:

  • Revise and restructure greenfield subtractor provisions to ensure community solar remains a viable and readily available option for those who cannot get rooftop solar
  • Ensure that land use proposals are carefully calibrated and commensurate with observable and documented land use changes
  • Review and revise the timing of implementing these provisions to ensure that mature projects currently under development can proceed under existing rules to avoid unnecessary market disruption
  • Increase the state’s solar goal by at least 3,200 megawatts for SMART to ensure that Massachusetts can meet its existing climate change obligations
  • Support local cities and towns in developing zoning and siting criteria that fit their respective community needs, rather than a one-size-fits-all approach set by the state.
  • Ensure that farmers can continue to host large-scale, ground mounted solar projects to help Massachusetts farms remain economically viable.

“We recognize that this proposal is a first draft and we continue to sift through the details,” Cramer continued. “That is why we look forward to engaging with policymakers to create a balanced solution that will continue to grow community solar, expand access to underserved communities and keep Massachusetts as a clean energy leader.”

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Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA) is a national Coalition of businesses and non-profits working to expand customer choice and access to solar to all American households and businesses through community solar. Community solar refers to local solar facilities shared by multiple community subscribers who receive credits on their electricity bills for their share of the power produced. Community solar provides homeowners, renters, and businesses equal access to the economic and environmental benefits of solar energy generation regardless of the physical attributes or ownership of their home or business. Community solar expands access to solar for all, including low-to-moderate income customers, all while building a stronger, distributed, and more resilient electric grid. For more information, visit our website at www.communitysolaraccess.org, follow us on Twitter at @solaraccess and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/communitysolaraccess.