BOSTON, MA - February 7, 2018 (Investorideas.com Newswire) As the Commonwealth's solar industry continues to fend off attacks at the state and federal levels, a report released today by The Solar Foundation notes that Massachusetts solar jobs saw a double-digit decline in 2017, marking the second year in a row of solar job losses.
In response, six industry organizations and leading advocates representing Massachusetts' 488 solar employers are joining forces to call on Governor Baker to redouble his commitment to the Commonwealth's clean energy economy by taking measures to protect the state's solar industry from federal tariffs on imported solar products, supporting legislation to reverse new solar surcharges on Eversource customers, providing relief from net metering caps (limits on the credit solar energy system owners receive), and ensuring the state Solar Massachusetts Renewable Targets (SMART) program enables all sectors of the Commonwealth's solar industry to thrive. These steps are critical to orient Massachusetts back toward clean energy progress.
"The undersigned organizations, representing thousands of Massachusetts workers and customers and hundreds of millions of dollars in investment, urge you to take action to address the headwinds facing Massachusetts' businesses by reaffirming the commitment to the solar industry that your Administration has cultivated over the last several years," states a letter delivered to the Governor today and signed by leaders of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), Vote Solar, the Northeast Clean Energy Council (NECEC), the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA), the Solar Energy Business Association of New England (SEBANE), and MassSolar.
In addition to federal solar tariffs imposed by the Trump Administration, which SEIA estimates will cost 23,000 solar jobs nationally and nearly 700 in Massachusetts, the letter singles out as particular threats Eversource's imposition of new charges on solar customers, and net metering caps that have maxed out in 230 communities - effectively stalling hundreds of projects.
The advocates' letter outlines threats facing Massachusetts' solar industry and ways the Commonwealth can protect hundreds of solar companies and the nearly 15,000 full-time solar workers building the clean energy economy in Massachusetts.
At the federal level, President Trump's new 30 percent tariff on all imported solar modules and cells, which goes into effect today, along with recent federal tax changes, have created uncertainty around the financing of solar projects, costing thousands of American jobs and billions of dollars in industry retraction across the country.
The Solar Foundation's 2017 jobs census shows Massachusetts has again lost solar jobs on a year-to-year basis, in part due to the uncertainty surrounding the President's actions on tariffs. There are now 11,530 solar jobs in Massachusetts, a 21 percent decline from 2016.
In its letter, the coalition is asking the Governor specifically to act on two areas:
1. To direct the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources to consider measures to modify the draft SMART tariff to fix several serious flaws prior to Department of Public Utilities (DPU) approval, and facilitating a smooth, on-time opening for the next 1,600 megawatts of home-grown solar power;
2. To work with the Legislature to act on, and to sign, legislation to reverse the Eversource solar charges and provide much needed relief from net metering caps. The letter notes that, in our current political climate, state-level solar policies are more important than ever to continue the Commonwealth's strong record of solar job creation. Leading states like Massachusetts stand to lose the most if immediate action is not taken.
"We Bay Staters take great pride in our state's leadership on many fronts, including in our commitment to building a modern, job-creating clean energy economy," said Sean Garren, Northeast Senior Director at Vote Solar. "Sadly, that leadership is being thwarted by a number of attacks on solar. We need Governor Baker to get the Commonwealth back on track by standing up to President Trump's tariffs, reversing Eversource's solar tax, and removing arbitrary limits on residents who can enjoy the benefits of solar through net metering."
"Now it is more critical than ever to redouble our efforts to ensure Massachusetts maintains its leadership in community shared solar," said CCSA Executive Director Jeff Cramer. "Thanks to the support of the Baker Administration, we have made significant strides in developing a robust solar industry and expanding solar access to thousands of Massachusetts consumers. However, with approximately two-thirds of Massachusetts' households and businesses still unable to access solar, we still have a long way to go to ensure all energy consumers across the state have the option to choose local, clean, and affordable solar. We urge the Governor to support the solar industry and help us ensure solar access for all."
"We are a national leader in solar; now is not the time to change course" said Mark Sylvia, President of SEBANE. "A united solar industry calls on the Baker Administration to take action to protect us from the negative effects of the new federal tariff and Eversource solar charge. Together, we created 15,000 good paying, sustainable jobs, generated millions in savings to Massachusetts citizens and helped tackle climate change. We've made progress together, let's not go back."
"Eversource's proposed demand charges are complex, confusing and create extraordinary uncertainty for residential customers. Their cumulative impact will add between $4,000 and $12,750 to the cost of going solar, effectively doubling or tripling solar's cost for smaller customers, and potentially much more if demand charges rise over the next 20 years," said Mark Sandeen, President and co-founder of MassSolar. "We need to be accelerating our transition to a clean energy economy, not putting the brakes on."
"It is more important than ever for states to stand up in support of the jobs, investment dollars and consumer opportunities that the solar industry provides communities across the country," said Sean Gallagher, SEIA's Vice President of State Affairs. "Massachusetts has been a long-time clean energy leader and that trailblazing progress and job growth can resume with smart policies in place."
"With mounting headwinds for solar at the federal level and in recent state decisions, it is critical for Governor Baker to take corrective action to ensure continued growth in the Commonwealth's solar industry," said NECEC Executive Vice President Janet Gail Besser. "Massachusetts policymakers have the opportunity to act and protect the Commonwealth's solar workforce from further declines through action on the SMART program tariff, the net metering caps, and undoing the poorly designed MMRC charge on new solar customers."
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